Melville opens serious disabilities development

HEAD START: Michelle Bos and her son Ryan at the opening of new special education unit at Melville Primary.
HEAD START: Michelle Bos and her son Ryan at the opening of new special education unit at Melville Primary.

The first of three new developments built to cater for Hamilton primary students with serious disabilities opened at Melville Primary yesterday.

The satellite unit of Patricia Avenue School will cater for nine students, and is part of a series of new special education projects in Hamilton being funded by the Ministry of Education.

The development at Melville Primary School, which includes two classrooms, a kitchen, a full-care bathroom, meeting room and full wheelchair access, officially opened with a powhiri on the school grounds yesterday morning.

Michele Bos, whose son Ryan will be a student, said she was very impressed with the facilities. "It's very exciting. It's going to be a really good experience for him to be around the kids, be able to take in a lot more and see how far he'll go."

For the past 4 years, 10-year-old Ryan - who has cerebral palsy - has had an hour and half daily commute from Te Awamutu to attend Patricia Avenue School in Hamilton East.

Ms Bos said the new satellite at Melville Primary will cut his travel time.

The two classrooms are just one of four developments being undertaken by Patricia Avenue School after a cash injection of $2.5 million from the Ministry.

Backing for the projects came from the Ministry's Special Schools Capital Works Programme - a one off funding programme of $22.8m to upgrade existing base schools, like Patricia Avenue, as well as create new satellites.

The initiative allocates funding according to space deficiencies in existing special schools, but prioritises the construction of satellites in mainstream schools.

Patricia Avenue School principal Jennifer Roberts said more parents are choosing to enroll their kids at special schools because a growing number of them are acknowledging the good job the schools are doing.

"There needs to be special schools. There are some kids who have really complex behavioural needs . . . but many of our kids get a real benefit from being in a mainstream environment."

Waikato Times