Ministry consulting on Otepopo School

Consultation on the possible closure of Otepopo School has begun.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said yesterday the Ministry of Education was consulting the school's commissioner, Mike Allison, and affected school boards.

Parents and the wider school community were also being asked for their views on the future of the Herbert school, which is a former winner of the Goodman Fielder best small school award.

Mr Allison was appointed commissioner in March after Mrs Tolley dissolved the school's board of trustees.

That followed an Education Review Office report that concluded important governance and management issues at the school had not been addressed.

The consultation had begun as the long-term best interests of the children and young people in the area were considered, Mrs Tolley said.

Otepopo's roll had dropped significantly over the past few years, with nine pupils attending as of July 1, she said.

"Occasionally, when school rolls fall, difficult decisions about long-term viability have to be made," she said.

When contacted yesterday, relieving principal Dave McShane said Mrs Tolley had been advised the roll was 17, with a projected roll of 19 for 2010.

Parents and staff had earlier prepared a submission stating their unequivocal desire for the school to remain open.

When contacted, parent Michelle Macdonald said it was not a definite decision to close and parents were prepared and determined to do anything it took to keep it open and to get the backing of the community.

The roll had significantly increased and Mr Allison had identified in his report the ability to form a board, Mrs Macdonald said.

The wider community needed to be aware of the effects a school closure could have on valuations of properties and on businesses, she said.

The school's circumstances had changed and it was "on the way back" to two-teacher status, she said.

- sally.rae@odt.co.nz

 

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