Emotions surface in fight to save school
MARC GREENHILL AND CHARLEY MANN
Tears, anger and resolve last night surfaced at a meeting on the fate Christchurch's Ouruhia Model School.
The school, off Marshland Rd, was one of 13 slated for closure under proposals announced by the Education Ministry last Thursday.
About 150 parents, teachers and community supporters last night packed the library and assembly hall - a building the ministry listed as too earthquake damaged to repair - for one of the first organised school meetings since the proposed changes.
The proposals can be seen in detail on the ministry's website.
Principal Mark Ashmore-Smith fought back tears after a performance of school favourite Te Aroha, which he said was about love and community.
"We had a huge turnout of parents on Friday morning [after the announcement] in the staffroom, and from then every single one of us has wanted to fight to keep Ouruhia School open," he said.
A new Save Ouruhia School Facebook page had more than 550 "likes" and the school's own page had "sky-rocketed", he said.
"That support has been amazing. I've done most of my teaching in country schools and connection with community, that history - that's a special thing and how do you measure that?
"We're told that schools under 150 [pupils] aren't viable. I'll tell you what, they've got something that bigger schools haven't got."
Parent and board of trustees member Alex Goodall, head of the the new Save Ouruhia School committee, reassured parents the school would not close at the end of the year.
Ministry consultation was expected to run from February to August, she said.
"This is early days in the fight and we've got a long road ahead of us," Goodall said.
She urged parents to keep their children at the school and promised to reimburse the uniform costs of those who enrolled next year if the school later closed.
"If people start to leave, the roll will go down and it will become a prophecy fulfilled."
Ashmore-Smith earlier told The Press the proposed closure was based on "incorrect and misleading" facts.
The ministry had quoted the March school roll of 100 pupils, he said.
It had not taken into account the 15 enrolments this year.
The number of buildings on the site had mysteriously increased and incurred earthquake damage, Ashmore-Smith.
"I invite you to come round with a magnifying glass to try and find this damage," he said.
"And I'm not even sure if we have nine buildings - it must include the lean-to over the well pump and the pool toilets."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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