Goodbye to little school on river

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014
rural school
JOHN COWPLAND/ Fairfax NZ
LAST IN LINE: Principal Alan Beeden with four of his last nine pupils, from left, Ar-jay Crisostomo, 10, Jade Thomson, 11, Korban Thomson, 9, and Sapphire Thomson. All now attend the nearby Sherenden and Districts School.

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It's been 88 years since its doors opened and just three years since it got new buildings, but a falling roll has meant the time has come to abandon Crownthorpe School.

The roll at the rural primary school, about 25 kilometres west of Hastings, fell to just nine last year, and the school and the Ministry of Education agreed the time had come to wind things up - despite the ministry spending $400,000 on new classrooms in 2010.

Principal Alan Beeden, who marked 20 years in the job in January, said there were more people living in the area now, but fewer school-aged children.

The school is one of three in the area, about 15km from each other. The others are on the Napier-Taihape Road.

"We're down on the [Ngaruroro] river, so we're not on the way to, or from, town for anybody," Beeden said.

"The roll was declining gradually over the years. There have been big land use changes. There are vineyards out here and lifestyle blocks, and there were amalgamations of farms, plus a big dairy operation. When I came here it was all beef and sheep.

"With the declining roll you can't really hide the fact that projections aren't looking too flash, or prevent the ministry ringing up and saying, ‘We need to talk'.

"We didn't really have an argument against it. We could have kicked up a fuss and strung it out for a bit longer, but it's best for the kids to get into a wider pool."

When Beeden arrived, the school had a roll of 35. It climbed to more than 60 about seven years ago, and at its peak in the 1970s it reached about 70. He and wife Jan came from Nottingham, England, where he taught at urban schools with rolls of about 400.

"It was quite amazing arriving here. It was a lot different from making a daily trip up the A46 [motorway]. It's pretty idyllic," he said.

Both their children attended the school. One now works as an editor for Penguin Books in London and the other is doing a masters at Victoria University. "So they turned out all right."

The school's last pupils had attended Sherenden and Districts School from the start of this term. Beeden spent this term winding things up, and will look to find work elsewhere.

One of the last pupils, Jade Thomson, 11, said she was sad to see it closed. She attended the school for three years and her younger brother and sister went there too. "Mr Beeden was a great teacher and I appreciate all the hard work he's done to give me the right learning," she said.

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Ministry head of infrastructure services Kim Shannon said when the new buildings were required it was clear the school's long-term future was uncertain, so they were designed to be transportable.

"All of the new teaching spaces constructed in 2010 will be removed and relocated for use in other schools."

The rest of the buildings would be sold for removal or demolished.

 

SMALLEST RURAL SCHOOLS LEFT

Ngamatea School, Whanganui: 3

Blackmount School, Southland: 3

Kakatahi School, Whanganui: 5

Ruakituri School, Wairoa: 6

Tokirima School, Taumarunui: 6

Whareorino School, Taranaki: 6

Kotemaori School, Wairoa: 6

Makuri School, Pahiatua: 6

Inangahua School, West Coast: 6

CLOSED SINCE 2012

Kirikau School, Taumarunui, opened 1928

Woodbank School, Kaikoura, 1914

Waimahaka School, Southland, 1901

Le Bons Bay School, Banks Peninsula, 1874

Oueroa School, Hawke's Bay, 1955

Jacob's River School, Westland, unknown 


- The Dominion Post

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