Tears at Phillipstown School

Parents, teachers and children were in tears after hearing Phillipstown school would close on its current site and merge with Woolston primary.

This confirms plans proposed last year.

Phillipstown, an inner city school with a roll of about 160 pupils, needs an estimated $3.5 million in repairs and earthquake strengthening work.

Woolston School, in Ferry Rd, has a roll of over 200 pupils and needs about $1.7m in repairs and strengthening work.

Phillipstown principal Tony Simpson broke the hard news to the community beneath the school flag pole at 11am."I'm feeling very very sad right now," he said.

"If this decision becomes a final decision in 28 days, then we aren't going to be coming to this wonderful wonderful school for much longer.

"I'm not going to lie to you, I'm going to tell you the truth because I love you all."

Amanda Tautari comforted her son Alex Stuart, 6, after the announcement.

Through tears, Alex told The Press his school must "stay".

Tautari said the school had a formula that worked, with three-quarters of pupils from Maori or Polynesian backgrounds and performing well.

"I didn't think this would happen."

Tautari said she would not send her son to the merged school. "There are going to be more than 700 kids in one school, there will be about 35 to 40 in a classroom. I dont want him lost to the system."

Earlier today Simpson had been hopeful officials would overturn the merger plans and warned the school would challenge any closure decision.

"If they have genuinely listened and thought about it, they will have to come to the conclusion that this decision is poorly conceived and not in the best interests of the children.

"If they haven't taken on board what the community's been saying here . . . then there has to have been pre-determination and the consultation has to have been a facade, and it will have been illegal."

The school was "absolutely" prepared to challenge the ministry's decision if it pushed ahead with the merger, he said.

"We believe in what we're doing and we get good results - you don't do that then just shut the lights out."

The Press