After months of uncertainty, was the pain necessary?
OPINION: U-turns have been made and it appears the Government has listened - but we still do not know if all the turmoil and heartbreak will result in one of the best and most modern school networks in the country.
The Government's announcement on the closure and merger of 31 Christchurch schools contained some surprises as Education Minister Hekia Parata revealed a third of her original proposals would not go ahead.
The outcome will still be the topic of a protest rally at the CBS Canterbury Arena at 4pm today.
Parata announced yesterday that seven schools would close, 12 would merge to create six and another 12 schools originally proposed for closure or merger would remain open.
These are all interim decisions and schools have until March 28 to provide a response before Parata announces her final decision in late May, but schools happy with their proposals will get confirmation sooner.
The 12 schools to receive a reprieve endured a range of emotions yesterday. The school communities were happy and relieved but left wondering why they had to go through the painful process to begin with.
One principal said she frequently had parents in her office crying about the merger plan.
Why was she and other parents put through that, she asked. But Parata stands by the process. The schools, she says, came up with some ideas in their submissions that she and the Ministry of Education had not thought of.
She said the changes show she had listened to schools.
However, the reprieve has come with a warning.
Parata said it was now up to the schools to follow through on those innovative ideas. They need to achieve what they promised.
If the plans are given final approval, Parata intends to move quickly, with most mergers and closures proposed to take effect from January next year.
This has upset schools, who expected more time to plan for their closure or merger.
Schools are worried the changes will be rushed and children will be taught in facilities even more temporary than the ones they were in now.
Parents who were under the impression or hoping that their children would complete their intermediate education at one school, would be disappointed about schools closing earlier than expected as well.
However, Parata has justified the new time frame by saying it was about providing certainty for parents and for teachers.
Certainty for some has led to uncertainty for others, including the 19 principals who will be out of a job along with the teachers at the seven schools expected to close.
The principal positions at the merged schools have to be advertised nationally, but teachers are a little more protected because only they are allowed to apply for the new positions at the merged schools.
Parata said it was too early to say how many teachers and support staff would lose their jobs.
These decisions, while difficult, would ensure Christchurch has one of the most modern education networks in the country serving pupils well into the 21st century, Parata said.
With the Government committing to spending $1 billion over the next 10 years, and building or rebuilding 15 schools, the city can now only hope the outcome will eventually lead to something better.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 schools to close.
12 schools to merge into 6.
12 schools originally proposed to merge or close are safe.
8 schools being rebuilt and relocated to new sites.
5 new schools will be built.
670 children affected by the closure of 7 schools.
$1 billion to be spent on Christchurch education network over 10 years.
177 of the 215 schools in Greater Christchurch not affected by proposals.
- The Press
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