Gasp as school merger plan announced

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013

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A collective gasp rang out around the Aranui High School hall when students, staff and parents were told three local primary schools would merge with them on their site.

Teacher and former pupil Charon Holderness captured the feeling: "I live in a broken home, drive on broken roads and teach in a broken school."

The overwhelming majority of Aranui High people The Press spoke to were firmly against the plan.

Prefect Alysha Salisbury said "it's pretty disgusting what they're doing".

"Through the consultation process we actually said no. The [education] minister visited us and asked us our opinions, and when it became obvious that we were going to keep pushing it the meeting was stopped . . . we didn't get a say."

Salisbury was also worried about the "culture" of the new school. "If you mix all those vibrant colours together, it will just turn brown," she said.

Aranui High head boy Thomas Smitheram watched, visibly upset, as principal John Rohs announced the merger.

He said he liked the school the way it was and was worried a bigger school would create a different atmosphere.

Deputy head girl Emma Robertson agreed the proposal was not right.

"For five-year-olds to come into an area filled with teenagers that like to go out and party . . . that is not what we should be telling five-year-olds to do."

The mood was brighter elsewhere.

Aranui Primary board of trustees chairman Tim Baker said the school supported the proposal.

Baker attended the school, and now has two children as students there.

"At the assembly this afternoon there was a few questions asked but everyone's quite accepting of what's been done," he said. "It's not unexpected."

At Chisnallwood Intermediate, pupils let out an almighty cheer when principal Richard Paton told them the school was staying open.

They were expecting the school would close and merge with the other Aranui schools.

It will remain untouched on its Breezes Rd site.

Parents Debbie Gough and Angela Auld burst into tears of joy on learning the school was saved.

Gough said parents had "expected the worst".

"Finally, we have something good for the eastern side" of Christchurch, Auld said.

"This was my school and I want all my children to come to this school."

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- The Press

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