Old boy and newest pupil open St Mary's bike tracks

St Mary's Year 6 student Kirvi Kibir, 11, enjoys the school's new cycle track.
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

St Mary's Year 6 student Kirvi Kibir, 11, enjoys the school's new cycle track.

Palmerston North new entrant Charlotte Hurley's first day at school on Friday was more memorable than most.

Not only was it her fifth birthday. She also got to open St Mary's School's new bike tracks.

She was teamed up with foundation pupil Graeme Eaton, who returned to the school he first attended in 1950 to cut the ribbon declaring the Bikes in Schools project open.

Eaton recalled starting at a "humble" school of three classrooms, one of which doubled as the church.

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The school was surrounded by cow paddocks, a creek and some trees, prior to the building of neighbouring Ross Intermediate and Freyberg High School and new housing.

He said the school was now an amazing facility, with the added advantage now of a cycle track, pump and skills courses.

"You can't go out on the roads the same as we used to do. To have a track at school is an amazing effort."

St Mary's was the second Palmerston North school to benefit from a $50,000 city council grant to help them into the Bikes in Schools programme.

City councillor Aleisha Rutherford said the scheme gave all children at the participating schools equal and ongoing access to the 50 bikes and helmets that came as part of the package.

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There was also an education programme for teachers helping pupils with their cycling skills, and a shed where the bikes were stored.

Pupils could learn to cycle, and practise their skills, in a safe place, and enjoy the exercise.

Ultimately the goal was that children would not just be biking at school, they would be biking to and from school as well.

The St Mary's project was also supported by the Eastern and Central Community Trust and the school's PTA, which had helped it upgrade its track around the grounds from limestone to a tarseal finish.

The walking, talking Life Education Trust hero Harold was a special guest at the opening, braving a circuit of the track on the back of a tandem steered by Rutherford, while Father Vaughan Lesley did the blessing.

Terrace End School officially opened its tracks in October. Others are being developed at four more schools, and another three could join the programme if efforts to attract New Zealand Transport Agency help succeed.

 - Stuff

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