Tokoroa's oldest school faces axe

Last updated 12:27 22/07/2009

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The Tokoroa East Primary School board of trustees has asked the Education Ministry to close its school, the town's oldest.

The ministry confirmed a letter from the board had cited several areas of difficulty.

It said the board proposed the school close because of a declining roll, its poor financial performance and the decline in population in Tokoroa.

If it does close, the school would shut its doors at the end of the current school year.

This is the second time the school has faced an uncertain future. In the late 90s the ministry recommended the school close, but the community banded together to save the 94-year-old school.

Both Tokoroa East School principal Jackie Meha, who has served at the school for only two terms, and board of trustees chair Ava Gardiner both declined to comment on the proposed closure.

However, Mrs Meha said a statement would be released next week.

A copy of the letter sent to the ministry and obtained by the South Waikato News states: " .. . in the best interests of the children and their education, we the board of trustees, have put forward a proposal to the minister of education that Tokoroa East School be closed."

The letter also outlined the "economic climate" as part of the problem. It is understood the school is $64,000 in the red.

A source said a whanau hui was called on July 2 where the school community was told of the letter and of the proposed closure.

"We were being told by the board to send our children to other schools, basically they were saying they couldn't provide adequate education," said the source.

"We were told that the financial problems were due to financial mismanagement in the past."

Ministry officials have met with the board to explain possible options and a consultation process is now under way.

Once this has been completed, the ministry will forward a report and recommendation to the minister for consideration.

The ministry has two options: to employ a fulltime commissioner or close the school.

Meanwhile a public meeting has been called to save the school.

Meeting organiser Wendy Biddle, whose children attended the school, is determined to keep Tokoroa East School open.

"This school is a taonga and it is not too far from reaching 100," she said.

"It's about getting a pool of passionate Tokoroa locals together to save this school."

The meeting will be held at the South Waikato District Council chambers on August 13 at 7pm.

If the school is saved, it will celebrate its centenary in 2015. South Waikato News

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- Waikato Times

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