New Zealand’s principals told Radio New Zealand's Insight program that a number of school property issues, ranging from leaky buildings to surging enrolments meant that education department coffers were running dry.
This is despite $6bn in government funds expected over next decade to help schools cope with these issues.
Mike Bain, principal of Te Mata School in Havelock North, said the scale of money being spent by low-enrolment schools could be put to better use.
"You've got schools of under 100 students that are spending a couple of hundred thousand on a new library, classroom or even a complete rebuild. I don't know if that is the best way to spend the money," Bain told Radio New Zealand.
"I'm not advocating that we have super schools where suddenly everyone goes, but when you've got multiple schools which have less than 50 kids, is that promoting the best educational outcome for students?"
Mike Williams, head of Pakuranga College and a member of the Secondary Principals Association (SPA), said the government should consider closing and merging schools.
"We have too many schools and so we have a lot of infrastructure that is very badly utilised,” Williams said.
“In high growth areas we have to build new classrooms, but there are classrooms all around the country that aren’t being used and we have schools with very few students in them."
Williams said no community wanted to lose its school, but nationally that attitude was unsustainable.
Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) Principals' Council president, Allan Vester, said the government had always found it hard to close schools in the face of strong local opposition.
"There's lots of communities that actually rationalisation needs to occur. There are more schools than are needed in an area, but it's politically so difficult to make those changes."
Vester said the ministry knew where there were too many schools and not enough children, but found it hard to intervene.