Cluster schools 'out of left field'
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The proposal to group five schools together in Aranui has ''sidelined communities'' and is ''far from practical'', community and education leaders say.
The Ministry of Education this week proposed to merge five state schools and one integrated school on to one site called the Aranui Learning Community Cluster.
The ministry said Avondale, Aranui and Wainoni primary schools would merge with Chisnallwood Intermediate and Aranui High.
It was part of a proposed $1 billion overhaul of Canterbury schools announced yesterday. See the proposal document here.
Avondale principal Mark Scown said schools understood ''that something needed to be done'', but the cluster proposal ''totally came out of left field''.
''We recognise that there have been some substantial roll drops since the earthquakes, but we did not see this coming.''
He said the school would engage with the community to see what people thought about the proposal.
''I do expect to see some public outcry,'' he said.
''There is a lot of unease about it already, so we're going to be sending out some questionnaires to get a better idea of what needs to be done.''
Burwood-Pegasus Community Board deputy chairman Tim Baker, who is also the chairman of the Aranui School's board of trustees, said the proposal did ''not make logistical sense''.
''The announcement itself was not handled well, but aside from that, the proposal is far from practical. I can't see any one site in that district that would be able to accommodate the proposed cluster,'' he said.
Baker said the community would ''need some time to digest this announcement''.
''If the Government listens and if community consultation is done correctly, then fine, but if not, then I would expect to see the communities rallying together.''
He said Aranui School was due to celebrate its centenary next month.
''After this news, that's going to be a really tough weekend. We've been organising it for a long time and it was delayed because of the quake, but it's going to have a sad element now,'' he said.
Aranui High School prinicpal John Rohs said he felt ''very optimistic'' about the proposal as long as ministry consultation was ''genuine''.
''If it's a case of just going through the motions because everything is already set in concrete, then we would be very, very disappointed.''
He said the issues of staff, a new board of trustees and appointment of a prinicpal would be the most ''fiddly and tricky part''.
''But overall, this could be something very exciting and innovative and it expands educational opportunity for the young people in the greater Aranui area,'' he said.
Chisnallwood Intermediate principal Richard Paton said this week's announcement was ''totally unbelieveable''.
''We're a high-performing school with 750 pupils, great resources and a great reputation and our school community is much wider than the Aranui area.''
He said the cluster would take away the middle-school option and would have an ''enormous and negative impact'' on communities and children.
''I think there will certainly be some very strong community and my hope is that through consultation they realise that closing Chisnallwood would not be in the best interests of the community,'' he said.
A spokeswoman from St James School, a Catholic integrated school, said she did not envisage the proposal having an effect because the school's buildings were owned by the Catholic diocese.
''But we're feeling very sorry for our colleagues down the road. We're all in close proximity and it's going to be a very difficult time for people,'' she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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