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Otepopo School commissioner Mike Allison's comment that the views of both groups should be respected was a "positive step", a school parent said yesterday.
A report by Mr Allison found a community concerned about the viability of its school, which has a roll of 11, and divided in its views about the future.
A small, committed group of parents, supported by a larger group of concerned residents, was happy with the performance of the school and determined to keep it open; and a large group of former school parents and board members felt alienated from the school and its management and had taken children to neighbouring schools.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said parents were finally feeling their concerns had been listened to and their views heard.
"I feel I am involved with regard to the future of the school. It's nice to have opinions and issues heard equally."
It was obvious there were "mountains to climb over" to retain the school, but small schools offered a safe and supportive learning environment, she said.
The children were well grounded, compassionate and considerate, reflecting the many qualities education at a small, rural school offered, she said.
In his report, Mr Allison said it would be prudent to open dialogue with neighbouring schools about plans for the future, so possible merger options could be debated without prejudice.
The parent said she never had an issue with looking at merger options but it had to be done in the correct way.
She saw a merger as one of the many options that had to be explored.
In his report, Mr Allison said substantially more Herbert children were now enrolled at neighbouring Maheno (17) and Totara (4) schools, than at Otepopo.
Maheno, to the north, and Hampden, to the south, were less than 10km from Otepopo.
Otepopo School, a former winner of the Goodman Fielder best small school award, had a roll of 41 in 2004.
The principal of the school is Ray Anderson.