No going back for schools' last pupils

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013

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On the last day, they were all leavers.

Kendal School pupils lined up in blue and yellow uniforms and prepared for their final assembly.

"Today is a funny day for us all," principal Keith Turner said, after the children gathered on stage.

"You might even see me with a little tear in my eye because it is a very sad day for me."

It was too for nine other Christchurch schools which, because of the Ministry of Education's post-earthquake education shakeup, closed for good this week.

Little Zoe Toms-Hoffman crawled onto the lap of teacher Janice Beckett to cry.

For the assembly, Turner arranged seven candles on a table in front of the stage. One represented the school he had taught at for 19 years. Six others represented the schools the students would move on to.

He invited the oldest student, Ben Gillespie, to light it. Gillespie had come to the school aged 5, along with his two older brothers who had since moved on.

"I'll miss it," he said after the ceremony.

For his mother, Cathy, there was something emotional about the school not being there to return to. It had been a source of friends and community when they moved from England almost a decade ago.

Other schools tried to go on as best they could. Linwood Intermediate had a brabecue. Richmond School had a day at Jellie Park.

At Greenpark School, the 21 students had already left. Principal Andrea Klassen spent the day with other teachers packing up and tending to administration matters.

"We have moved on now," she said. "Like the children we are looking to the future."

Turner told the Kendal assembly that whenever he felt sad he liked to read. So he read a poem about the winds of change. We don't know where they came from, he said, but we know where they have gone.

"The winds of change picked up Kendal school and blown us to a place we don't want to be right now."

Board chairman Michael Densem said there were mixed emotions. Sadness. Anger. Despair. He believed the school community had fought as much as it could. It did not take the decision to close lying down.

Turner invited the school's longest-serving teacher, Bev Pritchard, to blow out the candle. She had been there for 30 years.

Afterwards, when the school bell rang for the last time, she shrugged: "We can only look forward now."

At a normal end of year assembly, leaving certificates would only be given to the year six students who were moving on. But yesterday, at the final assembly in the school's 61-year history, every student was. They all got one.

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- The Press

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