Trustees plead to keep tiny school going

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012
Jacobs River School
Dean Kozanic
UNDER THREAT: Jacobs River School is possibly the most isolated school in New Zealand.

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One of New Zealand's smallest schools is fighting for its life.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has told Jacobs River School, which is also the country's most isolated mainland school, she will shut its doors next year.

Its roll of four pupils - soon to fall to two - is too small, unless the tiny West Coast community persuades her to change her mind, she said.

The board of trustees have written to Parata, pleading for her to put the school into "care and maintenance" for at least a year to allow time to attract new families into the picturesque area.

Board chairwoman Nicky Harris said the axe had loomed for more than a year because low rolls made the school unviable.

The Education Ministry told her the school would probably close on January 28.

"For most of us, it's a huge emotional loss. My kids are the fifth generation in my family to attend the school."

She moved back to Jacobs River about five years ago so her children could attend the school, which then had about 20 pupils, but feared its closure would force families to move away .

Two of the four pupils, including her son, 12-year-old Maka Mahuika, would head to high schools in Nelson and Oamaru next year.

Harris' daughter, Maya Mahuika, 11, faced boarding during the week in Fox Glacier.

"It's nerve-racking because we don't know what's happening," Maya said.

Terry Head, who has custody of his two grandchildren, moved from Te Kuiti in June last year to get away from the North Island township's gang influences.

The eldest, George, 6, was thriving at the school and the youngest, Nicholas, would start next April when he turned 5.

"There's nothing negative here. You talk to these older kids and see how well they've done. Not one child who has been to this school has ended up in jail.

"They get a good start in life," he said.

He was considering moving back to Te Kuiti if the school closed.

They said it would be difficult for them to drive the children to and from Fox Glacier School.

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