The charred remains of the playground at Apanui School. Supplied photos.
Apanui School principal Simon Akroyd is hoping that some poor decision-making by a group of teenagers will lead to some positive steps forward for the school and community alike with the launch of Operation Phoenix.
The senior playground at Apanui School was destroyed by an act of arson on Tuesday, November 5, and the following day the school learned that Ministry of Education insurance wouldn’t cover costs for damaged playgrounds.
In response, staff and leadership have kicked-off Operation Phoenix with the goal of rebuilding a new playground for the kids in 30 days, before the school year ends.
Simon says he’s saddened by the loss of the playground, because of its impact on the students, but he’s been blown away by the way the kids, their whanau, local businesses and the wider community have put their hands up to help put things right again.
“I’ve had people come forward with a huge array of ideas, and we really want to capture all that energy and make something happen while there is momentum,” he says.
“We’ve come up with a plan and we’re confident we can achieve this target – we just need everyone to chip in for the kids.”
Simon says Operation Phoenix is already underway with students sharing their ideas for the design of the replacement playground, and guidance from the Whakatāne District Council on safety standard requirements.
“There are still details to be finalised but we’re aiming for a two-day ‘mucking in’ building project for Friday, December 6, and Saturday, December 7,” he says.
“We’re keen to make it a whānau event with entertainment for the kids, kai to share and the opportunity to help on either day.”
Simon says that there is a focus on keeping a zero budget, so there is little-to-no financial impact on the school.
“We’re looking to our local businesses for in-kind support and donations of materials, goods and services to help get our kids back on the monkey bars.
“We’re now seeking to build an Apanui Army of helpers for the event, and calling for support from builders, hammer-hands and people who are just keen to get stuck in whatever form they can and make this happen.”
Simon acknowledges the opportunities that Operation Phoenix presents for really instilling Apanui School’s values of resilience, respect and responsibility.
“What better way to teach our children how to be great contributors to society than a project that enables everyone to do that?”