19 schools hear their fate

NICOLE MATHEWSON AND ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 17:17 29/05/2013
Daniel Tobin

Phillipstown principal Tony Simpson announces that Phillipstown School will merge with Woolston School.

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COMFORT: Phillipstown principal Tony Simpson after hearing the school will be merged.

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Nineteen Christchurch schools have been told the final decision on their future this afternoon.

Thirteen schools have been closed or merged, three are subject to new proposals, one has been given a reprieve and two will remain on their sites.

A gasp was heard from some Linwood Intermediate pupils when they were told their school will close at the end of the year.

Principal Lee Walker said he was worried for staff who had remained "dedicated" to the school, despite some struggling with other issues after the earthquakes.

"It's a heads and hearts process. The ministry said [the reason for closure] was the low roll, surplus capacity ... You can accept that, then the heart kicks in and you feel especially for the staff and the uncertainty they feel for their future," he said.

"I've felt that the whole process over the last two or three years has been rushed, but now that the decision has been made we're prepared to move on."

Manning Intermediate principal Richard Chambers said the Ministry of Education's decision to send year 7 and 8 pupils to nearby Hillmorton High School was disappointing, but had been expected.

"Obviously our preferred option was for Manning to remain open, but ... we're not entirely unhappy with that; it's the next best."

Pupils had responded to the news with anger and "quite a bit of noise", but the school would work to ensure they had good support during the year, he said.

"It may not be exactly what we wanted, but we will be helping to make sure whatever school they go to next year .. that they get the best deal possible."

He did not know what would happen to Manning's staff, saying the closure meant they had "no entitlements" to jobs at Hillmorton.

"We've got good people in schools that are closing and I hope that there is some way to retain most, if not all, of these people in Christchurch."

The ministry had yet to decide what would happen to Manning's site after the school closed next January, but Chambers hoped it would continue to be used by the community and not redeveloped as housing.

"Some of our buildings are well-used by the community after-hours. It would be a huge loss if they were to disappear," he said.

Staff and caregivers at Mairehau's Glenmoor School were "bitterly disappointed" the small school was to close, principal Alison Porteous said.

The ministry cited a dropping roll and the cost of repairing and strengthening buildings as reasons for the closure, but Porteous said the school's role had dropped after the ministry proposed the closure.

"There's nothing to be said really. It doesn't matter what we've brought up; they just decided they wanted Glenmoor out," she said.

Many parents had enrolled their children in the school because they had wanted a "different experience" and many feared their children would fall through the cracks at other schools. 

Porteous said the school would work with parents and caregivers to find new schools for the pupils next year.

"People are very, very distraught. It's like a death in the family really when a school dies. It's not easy for anyone," she said.

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The principals of Lyttelton Main and Lyttelton West schools were both in Auckland for a conference on rebuilding schools when today's decisions were announced.

The two schools will officially merge next May, but Lyttelton West will remain at its current site until construction of a new school at Lyttelton Main was finished in August 2015.

Lyttelton Main principal Sue Walls said the schools had anticipated they would merge, but she was concerned her pupils would have to move to the former St Joseph School site while building was under way.

Having pupils move twice in two years would create "huge pressure" for staff and the school.

"It just takes some time to readjust thinking. Ultimately, we're going to have a fabulous new school which will reflect Lyttelton's culture and community," she said.

Lyttelton West principal Diana Feary said her school would support Lyttelton Main while it was in temporary accommodation, and the two schools were "thinking as one school already".

"We've got a rocky bit in the middle, but we're going to have a fantastic new school," she said.

Phillipstown School has been told to close, but the community is vowing to fight on.

Principal Tony Simpson said it was a "sad day".

"We have a long, long journey in front of us," he said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has decided the school's merger with Woolston School will go ahead from next January.

Branston Intermediate School will close.

Staff and children were told the bad news at an assembly.

There were some tears among the children as it was announced.

Principal Jennifer O'Leary said she was "sorry to say not very good news".

"The minister of education is going to close the school and is going to close it at end of this year," she said.

Music teacher Geoffrey McCallum said staff had invested years in the school.

"It's like having it ripped out from under you. It's emotional for all of us," he said.

"It's hard on teachers, it's hard on children, it's hard on all of us."

Kendal School principal Keith Turner has confirmed his school will close.

"Sad news Kendal to close January 2014," he said on Twitter.

"Children told but we are being positive so no tears and no long faces. We have our chins up."

Information from the Education Ministry about the decision would be sent home to parents and caregivers today, he said.

Greenpark School has confirmed it will close.

Richmond School has also learnt it will close.

Principal Jacqualene Maindonald said teachers would be told this afternoon and a newsletter would be sent out to inform parents after school, but the news would not come as a surprise.

"We're not surprised and we don't think the parent community will be surprised," she said.

"They [parents] were aware the school is closing. We were expecting it and they were expecting it."

Burwood and Windsor schools will merge on a split site until the Windsor site is ready.

Windsor School board chairwoman Ali Hughes said the schools would merge next year, but both sites would remain in use until building work is completed on the Windsor site.

Building work was expected to take two years.

"We're not surprised about the merger, but we're very disappointed about the decision to site share, given that we gave them an alternative proposal," she said.

A new board would decide what pupils would go to which site, and Hughes said she would be "very surprised" if the pupils at each school would be kept at their current sites.

Hughes said they would "continue discussions with the local ministry" to fight the split-site proposal.

South New Brighton School has been given a reprieve after facing a merger with Central New Brighton School.

Central New Brighton principal Toni Burnside said the school might now merge with North New Brighton and Freeville schools.

Burnside said she and her staff were pleased the proposal was "on the table".

"We had that as a part of our submission. As firmly as we're against merging in the first place, if they have to happen, this is a good option," she said.

The proposal would see Freeville and Central New Brighton moving to the North New Brighton site. 

About 80 per cent of the school would be rebuilt, creating a "nice learning environment for our students", Burnside said.

However, the school would be expected to operate on two sites until the building was finished in 2016. 

"We would get to stay here for term 1 next year, then the children would move to North New Brighton,'' she said.

''We have concerns about that. Obviously moving children partway through the year is not good, and we will address that in our submission."

Burnside said South New Brighton School, which was originally pegged to merge with her school, would now stay as it was.

"That becomes very exciting for them down there; it's education as normal for them."

Maori immersion schools Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori had an interim decision to remain open and for one school to relocate, but both will now stay open on their current sites.

Parata said change was hard as she outlined the fate of 19 schools across the city.

The mergers and closures will take effect from next January.

"We have listened to parents, schools and communities throughout this process and as a result have made some further changes to the interim decisions," Parata said at a media briefing.

The Government's decisions affect about 2100 children across the 13 schools that will either close or merge.

Parata said that was about 3 per cent of the nearly 72,000 schoolchildren in Greater Christchurch.

"I would like to thank parents, teachers, principals and school communities for the feedback they provided during this process,'' she said.

"In making these decisions, I am mindful families in greater Christchurch have already been through a lot and I expect that today's announcement will provide some certainty.''

Of the 38 Christchurch schools covered in the original proposals announced last September, 28 schools now have final decisions.

Schools to close

Glenmoor School

Linwood Intermediate

Manning Intermediate

Greenpark School

Richmond School

Kendal School

Branston Intermediate

Schools to merge

Lyttelton West School will merge with Lyttelton Main School in May 2014

Phillipstown School will be merged with Woolston School on the Woolston site

Burwood and Windsor schools will merge on the Windsor site

Central New Brighton may merge with North New Brighton and Freeville schools

Schools given a reprieve

South New Brighton School

Year 7 and 8 provision

Branston Intermediate will be replaced with year 7-8 provision at Hornby High

Manning Intermediate will be replaced with year 7-8 provision at Hillmorton High

Linwood College will have year 7-8 provision in place of Linwood Intermediate

- The Press

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