Overcrowded Tualauta schools prompts DOE to consider building two more
With a growing population and overcrowding at some public schools — especially schools serving Tualauta county, the government is looking at adding another high school and elementary school in the territory, says Education Department director Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau, who pointed out that one challenge is the lack of government land for such a purpose.
DOE serves over 14,150 students in grades K-12, early childhood education and special education programs. It operates 22 ECE centers, 23 elementary and six high schools. Tafuna High School, located in Tualauta county, has the highest enrollment, according to the DOE website.
Tualauta, the most populous country, has four elementary schools and lawmakers from the county have long argued that these schools are overcrowded, particularly Tafuna High, whose current enrollment is over 1,000 students.
The issue of a new high school and elementary school surfaced during yesterday’s House Education Committee hearing where Vaitinasa fielded several questions pertaining to DOE.
Rep. Fatulegae’e Mauga asked if DOE is looking at a new school building for Fagaitua High School, saying that one of the buildings is very old. The DOE director responded that the plan is for a new two-story building at Fagaitua.
She said the lack of availability of land and the continued increase in enrollment are some of the issues that DOE is dealing with, especially in Tualauta.
The DOE director said they are looking at a plan as part of the Capital Improvement Projects, to start a new high school in Tualauta to address the over crowding at Tafuna High School. She says they are also looking at another elementary school to ease the overcrowding there.
Asked for more specific details, Vaitinasa told Samoa News after the hearing that “we’re looking at developing a five-year CIP plan and the idea is to lessen the enrollment in these big high schools and elementary schools — which are very overcrowded.”
“So we’re looking at starting very slowly, the new high school with grades 9 and 10,” she said. For example in Tualauta, students graduating from elementary schools in the county would go to the new high school instead of going to Tafuna High, unless they live around the Tafuna area.
“The biggest issue is finding land around Tualauta to house another high school," Vaitinasa said and noted the only large available parcel of government land is around Veterans Stadium.
“Those are just in the planning, thinking stages,” she said, adding that such a plan requires review by the governor. “We’re just going through the process now.