More pupils to stay for good

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 27/06/2012

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Nelson schools have experienced a steady influx of Christchurch pupils since the earthquake in February last year, but principals say those arriving more recently are now more intent on staying.

There are 254 ex-Christchurch pupils now enrolled in schools in the Nelson or Marlborough region, figures from the Education Ministry show.

The figures also show 176 pupils had enrolled in Nelson or Marlborough schools after the quake, but then returned to Christchurch.

Hampden Street School principal and Principals Association Nelson chairman Don McLean said there was still a "constant trickle" of families arriving from Christchurch.

There was now a "second generation" of families who were moving because of trouble finding work or because insurance companies had approved payouts.

"It's not so much for earthquakes, it's more now economic reasons," he said.

After the February 2011 earthquake, there was an initial burst of families coming to Nelson.

"Some kids who were traumatised, that added to a tension in the school.

"Now they are just like every other family that are moving. We're not dealing with kids who are emotionally scarred."

Henley School principal John Armstrong said his school had seen about 30 Christchurch pupils enrol since the February 2011 earthquake.

The most recent of these was about two weeks ago, when he enrolled three pupils from the east Brighton area.

"They had just had enough of the things they had to deal with down there."

Starting at a new school was a relief for some of the pupils, he said.

"Some are like startled rabbits, they really just want things settled and to get on with their education."

There was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the primary and secondary schools in Christchurch, so many families were moving here to stay long-term, he said.

For one of the families, it was the second time he had enrolled them, after meeting them the first time when he was principal of Sumner School in 2007.

Nayland College principal Rex Smith said his school had about three Christchurch families enrolled, with the rest having returned.

He was interested to see whether there was a reverse flow of families as the rebuild got started, he said.

But for one family, the move was the start of a new life.

Former Sumner resident and Canterbury University public relations consultant Jacqui Walters moved here with her two children, Sophia, 5, and Isabella, 4, just after Easter this year.

With her marriage broken up, Mrs Walters said it seemed an ideal time to start a new life, particularly as the regular aftershocks were increasingly hard on the girls.

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"It built up. The fact that you don't know when it may happen again is challenging as a parent."

Sophia is now enrolled in Hampden Street School, while Isabella attends Grove Street Kindergarten, and Mrs Walters is starting up her own communications company, Walters PR.

Finding new places for her daughters to go to school and kindergarten meant she had been forced to engage with the community, she said.

"You naturally meet parents and other kids that way."

The girls had also started playing football and doing ballet and other activities, and the family was slowly adjusting, she said.

"It's amazing how quickly you feel removed from it all. We're not that far away, but it is a completely different world."

But it was hard to put the quakes completely behind them, she said.

"You hear a noise that's reminiscent of an aftershock, it does make you look twice," she said.

"If [the girls] go past a building site they ask, `did that happen in the earthquake?"'

The move had been good for the family, and she planned to stay permanently, she said.

- The Nelson Mail

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