Couple learning to love their former school home

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2014
Sue and Ces Tooke
DEENA COSTER
SCHOOL'S OUT: Sue and Ces Tooke took over ownership of the former Fraser Rd School in 2005 and have made it their home.

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The apples are in bloom in the garden of Normanby's Fraser Rd School grounds.

But instead of students, it's the couple who live there who get to benefit from the bumper crop.

Ces and Sue Tooke bought the old school building and grounds in 2005, after the school closed in 2003.

A desire to live in the country was behind their decision to buy the former school.

"It was country living and it was unique," Mrs Tooke said.

Although the original school gate provides a clue about what the building used to be, when you get inside it's a different story.

The old principal's office is now a bedroom, the classroom is the main living space, while the art bench is used as the kitchen counter. The couple, who have two children, also added a shower, oven and fireplace when they moved in.

The bulk of the housework however, is done outside. Along with the building, the Tookes own 1.2 hectares of land which literally gives them a playground in their own backyard. The school's fort is still standing and the tennis court is used as a parking bay for the family's motorcycles.

The garden also attracted birds, such as tui and kereru.

"One of the things we love about being here is the birds," Mrs Tooke said.

Another outdoor feature is the school's old swimming pool, which is maintained and used every summer.

"That's my job, keeps me busy at this time of year," Mr Tooke said.

Part of the appeal of the property was the number of trees it had which included an 85-year-old kauri tree, Mrs Tooke said. "I can imagine generations of children would have climbed that tree."

Since living on Fraser Rd, they had also planted over 300 trees.

The couple, who formerly lived in Hawera, said they had no intention of moving and wanted to learn more about the history of the school.

Mrs Tooke said former students did pop in from time to time to reminisce about their school days.

"They want to have a look around or show their children," she said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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