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No ill-feeling towards minister, despite closures

Tuesday 19 Feb 2013 10:31 a.m.

The principal of a Christchurch primary school set to close at the end of the year says she has "no ill-feeling" towards Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Even so, Richmond School principal Jacqualene Maindonald says the local community were "stunned, saddened and disappointed" to hear the bad news.

"We're hurting, the community's hurting and the children are hurting as well," she told Firstline this morning.

"We don't know what we're going to do next, and our parents are concerned where [their children] are going to go next."

Ms Maindonald says they weren't expecting to be closed.

"We're a fantastic school. We're offering the best that we can for our children. We're one of the few schools that have a one-to-one technology programme operating… and we believe that we are a modern learning environment, that we can provide for our children.

"We're very sad that they've decided to close our school at the end of the year."

She says the drop in the school's roll has been a "self-fulfilling prophecy" since the announcement last year.

"When the earthquakes hit we had 30 children leave pretty much immediately. We understand why they left – they needed to. Their houses were destroyed in the earthquake.

"It's a self-fulfilling prophecy right now – once parents hear that schools are closing, well, they will be looking for other schools."

Debbie Kakoi is a parent whose three children attend Linwood Avenue School. Last year it was set to be merged with another, but in the latest announcement was spared.

"It did actually come as a surprise," she told Firstline. "I was ready for some bad news, but in the end it turned out really good. I'm glad that the parents' voices and the teachers' voices got heard."

She says teachers and parents brought up many points of difference between Linwood Avenue and Bromley Primary, the school it was originally going to merge with. That, along with an increasing roll, she says, ensured its future.

"We got very lucky, but I think they must have seen that Linwood Ave is more like a community than just a school."

Ms Kakoi says deciding which schools to close must have been a hard decision for Ms Parata.

"I'm very grateful to her that she did take the time to visit our school, to see how we all work together, to see what kind of school it was and know that it was more than a school to us. It's all about the kids, and she must have seen that education is very important to us."

Ms Maindonald says she has no ill-feeling towards Ms Parata.

"We've taken the time at the moment to look at all the avenues open to us, and the board are going to meet on Thursday [and will] make a decision from there."

Ms Parata told Firstline this morning she understood some communities would be disappointed with her ministry's decisions, but stopped short of saying "sorry".

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