Ten days to save school from closure

JARED NICOLL
Last updated 12:00 16/08/2012

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Koromiko people have two weeks to send submissions to the Education Ministry before a final decision is made on the fate of Koromiko School.

About 25 parents, grandparents and potential newcomers filled a classroom at the school to consult with the board of trustees and representatives from the ministry on the possible closure of the school yesterday afternoon.

They were told they had until August 29 to send their submissions to the ministry before Education Minister Hekia Parata decided whether or not to shut it down.

The normal 28-day submission period was cut to 10 working days because the board had requested the closure of the school in a June 5 letter.

The letter from board chairman Simon Tripe was submitted to the ministry before the board shared its intentions with parents at a meeting held two days later.

Speaking at yesterday's meeting, Mr Tripe said parents should have been aware the school's roll had decreased since 1990 to 18 pupils and that it could drop to a sole-charge position if allowed to remain open next year.

It is estimated it will have 14 pupils next year and would need about 26 or risk having its funding for two teachers and an administrator cut by the ministry.

"If we hadn't sent that letter in, there wouldn't be the people here today showing their interest in the school," Mr Tripe said.

"We've tried and tried with pamphlet drops, newspaper articles, and we've never even had a room of people like this looking to keep the school open."

Mr Tripe said the board's biggest concern was a drop in educational standards for pupils if the school became sole-charge.

The decile 4 school received a glowing Education Review Office report in June.

Mr Tripe said the board had struggled to raise support in the face of dwindling roll numbers and was forced to make the "tough decision" to request its voluntary closure.

Parent Rick Ireland said the best thing people could do to keep the school open would be to send through letters of future enrolments with their submissions.

More than 50 four-year-olds were enrolled in early education centres in nearby Picton, Linkwater and Waikawa Bay who were potential new entrants at the school, he said.

Funding from parents for a music teacher and boat-building classes was available to help entice potential pupils.

Education Ministry spokesman Doug Milne said the ministry had been following a standard procedure of consulting with affected parties after it got the board's letter.

It was up to the minister to make the decision on the future of the school after taking into account all the submissions.

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It was likely the school would be closed by January if that was the minister's decision, he said.

School buildings can be offered back to their original owners, such as farmers, or sold if the school closed.

The board of trustees can also withdraw its request for voluntary closure which would end the immediate threat to the school, Mr Milne said.

- The Marlborough Express

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