Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced which Christchurch schools will close, confirming the worst fears for many principals and school staff.
She has also surprised some school principals whose schools were facing closure or mergers.
Seven schools will close, 12 schools will merge, 12 schools which were destined for closure will stay open, seven schools will be relocated and rebuilt, and six new schools will be built.
The seven schools which will close are:
- Branston Intermediate
- Manning Intermediate
- Glenmoor School
- Greenpark School
- Kendal School
- Linwood Intermediate
- Richmond School
The 12 schools which will merge are:
- Phillipstown School to close and merge with Woolston School
- Special character schools Discovery One and Unlimited to create a year 1-13 school
- Burwood School to merge with Windsor School
- Central New Brighton to merge with South New Brighton
- Freeville School to merge with North New Brighton
- Lyttelton West School to merge with Lyttelton Main School
In a press conference at midday, Ms Parata said in making her interim decision for 31 schools, she had “not only considered earthquake damage, but also population and future growth”.
Today’s announcement differs from the Ministry’s plans in September last year where they planned to close 12 schools and merge a further 18.
Ms Parata says those plans have since changed because of an in-depth “consultation process”.
“I personally visited 35 of the schools affected by the proposals and met with about 2,000 parents, teachers and other interested parties to hear their concerns,” she says.
On top of the schools the Ministry wants to shut, a further two have closed voluntarily - Hammersley Park and Le Bons Bay schools.
The Education Ministry also has plans to build six new schools in areas of population growth and rebuild nine others on their current sites.
Ms Parata’s plan:
- 12 schools which had been proposed for closure or merger should remain open
- 19 schools should either close, or merge
- Of those 19 schools, 7 should close and 12 should merge
- Five schools in Aranui (Aranui, Avondale, Wainoni, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Aranui High School) have an extended consultation period to March 7. It is proposed those schools form a new Year 1 - 13 campus.
Phillipstown School Principal Tony Simpson was in tears over the announcement that his school was to close and merge with nearby Woolston School and says he will fight the decision.
“We are not shutting the door and turning the lights out,” he says.
“For the children of this community this is a sad, sad day, for the people of this province it’s devastating and for the education system in New Zealand it’s a cut through the heart.”
Other schools were happy with the Ministry’s decisions, with staff at Unlimited School saying they were delighted with the announcement they were to merge with Discovery One.
Co-chair of Unlimited’s Board of Trustees Tanja Grzeta says that the Unlimited finds the decision “very exciting”.
“It’s something that didn’t come as a surprise to us, we’ve been working together as two schools for a long time,” she says.
A letter for parents will be sent home with all the children at the 31 affected schools outlining the decisions and what it means for them.
A free helpline has been set up, which parents can call if they have any questions. That number is 0800 746 338 and will be active from midday.