Schools put their case, leave fate with minister

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 08/12/2012

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The fate of more than 30 Christchurch schools slated to close or merge now lies with Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Some schools are opposed to the Ministry of Education's proposals and have floated alternative options to stay viable, but others have accepted their fate.

Thirty-three schools in greater Christchurch have made submissions on the proposals.

Yesterday marked the end of a 10-week consultation given to the 13 schools proposed to close and 21 mooted to undergo some form of merger.

The Press has seen submissions from two schools and has spoken with numerous others about what they have put to the ministry.

Ouruhia Model School principal Mark Ashmore-Smith said the school opposed the proposed closure.

Key to their submission was the predicted growth in the surrounding area.

"We can offer new initiatives for our cluster, possibly including transporting Brooklands Playcentre to our site and providing Maori Medium Education or a special education satellite unit next to the school," he said.

The school had room to expand as the ministry had bought a hectare of land next door to the school before the 2011 earthquakes, Ashmore-Smith said.

Spreydon's Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Whanau Tahi opposed the proposed merger with Te Kura Whakapumau Te Reo Tuturu Ki Waitaha.

In its submission the kura said it wanted to increase the use of its facilities, with plans to establish an early-childhood education centre, an after-school homework centre and evening courses, as well as housing a social services and learning support centre.

The kura is also inviting pupils from mainstream schools to "learn with us in a high-level te reo Maori immersion setting".

The Press understands Discovery 1 and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti are supportive of the proposed merger, which will happen once the schools move back into the central city.

Unlimited will move to a temporary site at the University of Canterbury next year and Discovery will remain at its base on Halswell Residential School's site for the immediate future.

The schools lost their central city sites in the February 22 earthquake and must secure new premises.

Le Bons Bay and Hammersley Park schools have both recommended voluntary closure, in line with ministry proposals.

Burnham School acting principal Sandra Keenan and board of trustees chairwoman Jackie Freeman handed the school's submission to the ministry's acting regional manager of southern region operations, Kathryn Palmer yesterday.

The school is earmarked to close under the proposals.

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Freeman said it was a relief to have completed the process, after numerous community meetings, surveys and many hours writing.

"A lot of people have offered their services and their knowledge to help us strengthen the submission," she said.

"The community has said, in feedback, we could not have done a better job on the submission.

"Some people have said they did not give feedback because there was nothing they could add."

Avondale Primary, Aranui Primary, Aranui High, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Wainoni School, which are proposed to close and become a year 1 to year 13 campus, were given an extended deadline to consult until March 7 next year.

- The Press

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