Primary school will be 'like no other'
Hamilton's newest school in Flagstaff will be unlike any other school in the city, its new principal is promising.
And Marcus Freke, who takes up the job in May, says the community will have input into how they want the new Endeavour Primary School to operate.
The $16.7 million investment from the Ministry of Education has been welcomed by a community which has long awaited a school of its own.
Prime Minister John Key turned the first sod for the school in March and by the start of the 2015 school year it should be open and ready for its first pupils.
"It's not actually going to look like any other school in Hamilton," said Mr Freke. "The old days where you used to sit at a desk and have one teacher telling you exactly what you had to do and when you had to do it, that's kind of gone. And it's now an understanding that kids learn in different ways, they learn collaboratively. And the spaces are now designed so the kids can really use their strengths to how they learn."
Freke officially steps into his role on May 5 after finishing at Vardon School and is looking forward to the unique opportunity of building up a new school.
When it opens next January it will be staffed for 240 pupils but eventually it will be able to take 600.
Construction is due to start in June and will create an environment for the latest teaching and learning methods, Ministry of Education acting head of education infrastructure services Jerome Sheppard said.
Stage one would include a dedicated teaching block with capacity for 200 pupils - the equivalent of about eight traditional classrooms.
A second teaching block with the capacity for 200 students would also be constructed, and would include the administration, staff and resource area and multi-purpose space.
The arts and technology centre and multi-purpose space with adjoining library was a key feature of the school, Sheppard said.
The multi-purpose space could serve as a hall, performance space with a stage and would include a half basketball court.
For Freke, there are two jobs at the top of his to-do list - setting up his senior leadership team and deciding how they and the community want teaching and learning to look at the school.
That would have a wide influence, including on which staff were employed and how the classrooms were set up, he said. The establishment board has already defined an emerging vision, including the use of digital technology, culturally-responsive approaches to learning, strong relationships to support learning and collaborative learning.
"Most schools share those types of ideas but we're just going to be doing it in a new way," Freke said.
He and his two deputy principals will set out a clear vision and values and get out and about in the community to hear its views. Pre-school visits are likely to be first up and a series of timetabled meetings are also on the cards.
"My understanding is that the community has been looking forward to having a school that belongs to them in this area.
"They're really excited about having a school they can call their own," Freke said.
"We have an expectation that the parents are going to be involved in the school and that they're going to contribute their knowledge and their ideas and their perspectives into how the curriculum's going to look."
Decisions like whether or not there would be uniforms would also come from community consultation - although Freke is personally in favour.
Freke was impressed with the support from the principals of nearby Rototuna and Te Totara Primary Schools, both of whom worked with the ministry on the realignment of school zones.
"It's big-picture thinking that you're really appreciative of . . . instead of guarding your patch," he said.
But there would be a challenge to other schools in one sense, establishment board chairperson Bill Noble said.
Because Endeavour Primary School would be leading the country in the areas of student learning and technology, "the challenge for everybody around . . . is to see that they're going to be up to speed to take the children from here in Year 6".
He said the sign at the gate summed it up - "a school for the community".
CHARLES CAN JUMP FENCE TO SCHOOL
School will be right over the back fence for 4-year-old Charles Nieto if he ends up at Endeavour Primary School next year.
His family has recently moved down from Auckland and chose to rent in the Flagstaff area because of the proposed new school, father Archie Nieto said.
They researched, found it was due to open in 2015 and decided they wanted to be close. They are - their house borders the school field.
"If my kid goes to the school next year he'll just jump over the fence and he'll be in the school," Nieto said.
From their house they can watch progress on the school every day and feel the ground shaking as earthworks progress.
And Charles is getting excited.
"When we're driving around that area I'm always telling him [Charles] they're building your new school. And every time he looks out the window he can see all those diggers doing the job so he says, ‘Oh, that's my school they're constructing right now'," Nieto said.
Nieto expected plenty of interest in Endeavour Primary School because even daycare centres in Flagstaff had wait times of several months.
Schooling options also brought Heather Connolly and her family to the northern suburbs about three years ago, and they are about 2km from Endeavour Primary School.
"We moved from another part of Hamilton . . . We wanted good schooling and we also knew this area was growing and there would be an intermediate/high school eventually going in here as well."
As a tertiary lecturer, education is important to her. Son Dylan, 6, is at Te Totara Primary but zoning changes brought in with the new school mean 3-year-old daughter Jaimee will head to Endeavour Primary School in 2016, so he'll move there.
Many families around the area would face a similar situation, Connolly said.
She was excited about Endeavour Primary School's proposed open-plan learning spaces and technology, and saw it continuing in the new secondary school announced for Hamilton's north.
"The exciting thing is the next generation of schools. We don't build schools every five minutes," she said.
The short period to put in place systems and structures for the school was her one concern.
September 2013 New primary school confirmed
March 2013 John Key turns first sod before site works start
June 2014 Construction due to start
May 2014 Official start for foundation principal. Hope to have enrolment information on website before end of month
January 2015 School due to open