Parents fear merger logistics nightmare

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2013
Lyttelton schools
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

SIGNING UP: Lyttelton West School parents sign a petition against the proposal to speed up the merger of the school with Lyttelton Main School.

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Lyttelton families could end up with children attending school at three different sites if the proposed school merger goes ahead next year.

Parents are upset at the Ministry of Education plan to move the proposed merger of Lyttelton West School and Lyttelton Main School forward from 2016 to next year, which will lead to the school being spread over three sites.

Lyttelton Main is also using classrooms at the former St Joseph's School after two of its classrooms were red-stickered following the earthquakes.

Claire Coates, who has two children at Lyttelton West, said the ministry has broken two promises it made to parents at the school last year.

Parents had been told no merger would occur before 2016 and operating on split sites was not an option, she said.

But last week, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a proposal to merge the two schools from next year. Because extensive building work was needed at Lyttelton Main, the schools would operate from split sites until term three 2015.

Stephen Mateer, who has two children at West and one at Main, said this option was the worst-case scenario for parents.

"Most of us feel it could be a decade before they build us a school."

Families with three children at the school were concerned they could end up having to drop their children off at three different sites, Mateer said.

The ministry's rationale for bringing the date forward is to provide certainty for pupils, parents and staff.

But Lucie Ozanne, who has two children at West, said the change of date did the opposite.

For many parents the change of date was the last straw, and some were now considering moving their children to schools outside Lyttelton, she said.

Lyttelton West School principal Diana Feary said she wondered how the new merged school would be able to develop a school culture when its children and teachers were split over three sites and would rarely get together as a school.

She was also not sure if the building work could be completed in time. As well as building new classrooms the ministry also has to buy more land to accommodate a larger school and is in negotiations with two neighbouring landowners including the police, to increase the land size at Lyttelton Main by 20 per cent.

Lyttelton Main School principal Sue Walls said she was confident the schools could work their way through the issues and come up with innovative ways of making the split sites work.

But she said 2016 would have been an easier date to work toward.

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