Threatened schools give up the fight

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013

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Decision day has arrived, but many Christchurch schools under threat of closure or merger have already given up the fight.

One school, under a closure cloud, has even failed to get any parents to stand for its board of trustees and faces being governed by a commissioner for its final six months.

The Ministry of Education will today tell 17 schools whether closure and merger plans affecting them will go ahead.

Most schools fought hard for their survival, providing comprehensive submissions, but when their arguments were dismissed by Education Minister Hekia Parata and the proposals became interim decisions in February, many decided to concede defeat.

Richmond School is one of those schools and no longer has a board of trustees.

Principal Jacqualene Maindonald said she was not concerned about the absence of a board because she still had parent and community support.

It was a big ask for parents to stand on a board of a school that could close, she said, and many just wanted to enjoy their last six months at the school with their children.

"We were very hopeful when we put our submission in. The school is doing some wonderful things. I guess we've got to be realistic. Our numbers were low and, based on that, what else can the ministry do?"

Richmond School's immediate past board chairman Peter Mason said most of the board members were unable to stand in the election because they did not have children at the school.

A commissioner will now be appointed to govern the school.

Windsor School principal Neill O'Reilly said their proposed merger with Burwood was not something the schools wanted or needed but they had accepted it.

The school was now focused on making the best of the merger for the children and community.

"We see no benefit of dragging the community through a big battle. We're not going to turn this into another terrible event."

Lyttelton West School principal Diana Feary said the school was expecting the interim decision, which would lead to it merging with Lyttelton Main, to be confirmed today.

The school and Lyttelton Main had made a joint proposal to ensure the merger went as smoothly as possible.

D-DAY ON SCHOOL CLOSURES

Teams of Ministry of Education staff will visit 17 Christchurch schools today to deliver the final decision on their future but one school will hear the news offsite.

Phillipstown School has asked to be told the decision at an office a short distance from the school.

Education Minister Hekia Parata wants to merge Phillipstown School at Woolston School, something Phillipstown is fiercely opposed to.

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Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said he wanted to hear the decision away from the school where he and board chairman Wayne West could digest the information without interruption.

His office was not big enough to spread out all the information he expected to be provided by the ministry and because the school could not use its hall, he wanted to go offsite.

Once they had taken in all the information he and West would return to the school and relay the decision to staff and then pupils and the community.

Simpson said the ministry was happy to oblige with the school's request.

The 17 schools under threat are being told the final decision by ministry staff between midday and 2pm. Parata will make a public announcement at 2.45pm.

- The Press

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