Schools ready to say goodbye

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 14:22 13/12/2013

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Sadness, despair and anger were felt at Kendal School this morning as a candle symbolising the school was blown out.

Nine schools are in their final days of existence due to the Ministry of Education's post-quake education shakeup.

Manning Intermediate, Branston Intermediate, Linwood Intermediate, Glenmoor, Kendal, Richmond and Greenpark will officially close before the end of the school year. Burwood and Windsor School will be the first to close, merging to form Waitikiri School from the beginning of 2014.


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The oldest of the schools - 143-year-old Greenpark - has already said goodbye to its final 21 pupils and staff were given two teacher-only days to pack up.

KENDAL UNVEILS MEMORIAL BENCH

Speaking after the final assembly this morning board chairman Michael Densem said it was a day of mixed emotions.

He was sad at the loss of a "wonderful little school," angry at the process by which it had been closed and "despair at the lack of vision" from the Ministry of Education.

He said everyone should be proud that the school did not just lie down. "We fought as hard as we could."

Students lit a candle for the school which was then blown out by the longest serving teacher Bev Pritchard who had worked there for 30 years.

"We can only look forward now," she said.

The school which opened in 1961 was once one of the biggest in the South Island with 1000 pupils.

Principal Keith Turner said as the Burnside suburb matured there were fewer young families and the roll fell to just 59 after its closure was announced.

He said the Kendal community felt drained, despondent and disgruntled after working hard to help out the community post-quakes. "That's the thanks you get for trying to be a good citizen and help."

The rolls in surrounding schools were starting to pick up, and it was possibly going through another wave of new young families coming into the area.

After 39 years teaching Turner will retire with the school, and his pupils would disperse to about 10 schools.

The closure of the school would be a "massive loss" short-term, he said, "but people adapt and adjust don't they?".

At Kendal, a memorial seat was unveiled in the community playground yesterday.

MANNING INTERMEDIATE

Manning Intermediate will close determined "they will make work whatever the Government gives us".

The school opened in 1969 had 700 pupils at its peak in the early 1970s.

Principal Richard Chambers said the school had survived many challenges, including a fire in 2009 that destroyed the administration block and hall.

The school had a 200-square-metre plot of "holy grass" on its grounds whjere students were banned from walking. It had four trees -– three to mark the founding of the school, and one as a memorial to a student who died.

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"It's just become part of the mythology of the school."

Chambers said everyone was coping as best as they could. "We're working hard that we leave holding our heads up really high.

"This is a great community to be part of, and all of the school staff are very confident in our community and our people that they will make work whatever the Government gives us."

NO EDUCATIONAL REASON TO CLOSE LINWOOD

Ahead of the school's closure, Linwood Intermediate principal Lee Walker began teaching at the school nearly 40 years ago, said the area was now more ethnically diverse.

"I see that as a strength of the area now, that ethnic mix and what they've actually brought with them."

Walker said there was sadness among staff "about the family breaking up and moving apart".

"We're satisfied in our mind there is no educational reason to close the school. It's purely a political decision around money."

At its peak in the 1990s the roll was more than 500. Immediately before the earthquakes the roll was 210, but it had dropped to about 130.

Most of his pupils would move to Linwood College when it takes on year 7 and 8 pupils next year.

LONG HISTORY OF RICHMOND SCHOOL

Richmond School began as a two-room school on the Richmond Village Green in 1875.

It closes with a roll just under 40.

Principal Jacqualene Maindonald these pupils would leave to begin a new journey at a new school with all the skills needed to do well.

"We have accepted the ministerial decision to close with equanimity and grace. We understood from the second announcement there were no options left for us, and so made the most conscious of decisions to accept the outcome and move forward in the best interests of our children.

"It has been a privilege to end the journey of Richmond School with our wonderful children, their whanau, and in particular our amazing teaching staff."

BRANSTON INTERMEDIATE

The school first opened in 1971 in what was then a working class area surrounded by factories including freezing works and a glass factory.

Principal Jennifer O'Leary said when it was first built there was farmland between the area and Christchurch. "It's not a suburb, it's a village."

There were more than 600 pupils at its highest roll, compared to its roll of 180 now.

It had a strong musical tradition, with greats including the Runga sisters, Anika Moa, and X Factor finalist Whenua Patuwai hailing from its halls.

The school intended to finish its final year with a final assembly and reports handed out to pupils on their way home on December 17.

GLENMOORE SCHOOL KIDS 'RESILIENT'

The Glenmoor School community feels "sad and glad" heading in to the end of its era.

Sad because after more than 50 years the small school will close, but glad its pupils have places in schools looking ahead.

Trevor Beaton acting principal for a few months, said despite being an inner-city, decile 3 school, it had a "country flavour".

"It's got a unique and positive culture."

The school built in 1958, never became big, due in part to the green belt building restrictions that used to be in place near Marshlands.

Moving on would be different for the 40 remaining pupils, since most of their new schools were a lot bigger. But "kids are pretty resilient" he said.

"Kids aren't feeling it as much as the adults in the community. My impressions are very positive about the kids in the school and how they work.

"We have lost something special, but they're probably going to something special as well."

DREADING SEEING GREENPARK DEMOLISHED

Greenpark School, established nearly 150 years ago, has seen its roll fluctuate with transient dairy workers.

Principal Andrea Klassen, who came to the school in 1989 and was principal by 1993, said the roll peaked at 102 in the late 1800s.

Throughout history the roll had been like a rollercoaster, Klassen said. If a sharemilking family with four children left, it had a big impact on the school.

"For a small school to make up those children again, it can be quite hard."

The school's rural setting gave it "a real family atmosphere", with the older pupils encouraged to look after the younger ones.

While the roll fell to 21 after the clousure announcement, 265 of its community and alumni came to the school's end of year celebrations.

Next year, most pupils would go to either Tai Tapu or Springston.

Klassen said she did not know what would come of the school site, its 1950s buildings, and the grounds.

"I really am dreading the thought of driving past here and it's been demolished."

Glenmoor acting principal Trevor Beaton said the community was sad to see the school closed, but glad the "pretty resilient" children had other good schools to go to.

Kendal School principal Keith Turner said the closure would be a "massive loss" short-term, "but people adapt and adjust, don't they?".

A Kendal memorial seat at a nearby playground has the Albert Einstein quote: "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."

BURWOOD MERGER A 'BRUTAL' PROCESS

Burwood School, to merge with Windsor from next year, had served its communityu for over 141 years with a roll ofabout 800 in the 1960s.

The pre-quake roll was 450, and it was down to 245.

Tony Mabin, was seconded to the role of principal in its final months, said he had dealt with a "brutal" industrial process.

The staff and pupils had been through a lot through the merger process, he said, but the children were "more resilient than we give them credit for".

Every pupil would ring the school's old school bell on the last day.

"Burwood community are going through the grieving stages. It will be a very sad day [on the last day]."

Burwood would remain the "River Campus" for Years 4 to 6, while Windsor would be the "Wetland Campus" for Years 1 to 3, until the new Waitakiri School operates from the one site on the old Windsor grounds.

WINDSOR BUYS 80 SCOOTERS FOR MOVING BETWEEN SITES

Windsor principal Neill O'Reilly said he encouraged children to climb trees and get involved, and would bring those attitudes to the merger school —- Waitakiri School —- which he would also be principal of.

Despite the challenges the community had faced through the merger, there was a real focus on the future and a "never say die attitude".

The "fake it 'til you make it" motto of post-quake Christchurch worked, and the Burwood community "has made it", he said.

Waitakiri School had a predicted roll of up to 850 pupils, and very few staff from either Burwood or Windsor had been lost in the merger process. The school would operate from split locations.

He had already bought about 80 scooters for pupils and teachers to scoot the 1.3 kilometres between the dual sites, as well as a "cruisy bike for me".

"The future is incredibly exciting. These are two communities who are ready to work with the school in partnership to make a really fantastic learning environment for the children."

The new school would open to pupils on February 5.

 

 

- The Press

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