Bid to keep school open

Renon Sasaki
Renon Sasaki
Since being accepted last month to Nelson's Salisbury School - New Zealand's only residential school for intellectually impaired adolescent girls - Wanaka teenager Renon Sasaki is finally fulfilling her dream of making friends with other children.

However, Renon's father Hisashi fears a setback in his daughter's social development if the Ministry of Education proceeds with a proposal to close the school at the end of this year, so he has been drumming up support for the facility before the public consultation deadline tomorrow.

Salisbury is one of four residential schools the ministry could close after a government review on the future of special education.

Mr Sasaki said Renon (14) became "isolated" at mainstream schools but after just a few weeks at Salisbury School she became "a happy girl, developing friendship quickly".

Renon was only formally diagnosed with an intellectual disability about two years ago.

Wanaka restaurateur Hisashi Sasaki wants  people to make submissions opposing the Ministry of...
Wanaka restaurateur Hisashi Sasaki wants people to make submissions opposing the Ministry of Education's proposal to close residential special schools, including Nelson's Salisbury School, attended by his daughter, Renon. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Since then it had been a "battle" to get Renon the help she needed.

Staff at Wanaka Primary School and Mount Aspiring College, where she was previously a pupil, had "tried really hard" to get her to succeed, with little result, and a funding application for specialised support was declined by the ministry.

Salisbury School was the "last resort" to give Renon the "intense intervention" she needed.

Ms Sasaki has signed Salisbury School's community petition and made his own submission directly to the ministry.

He is urging others to do the same to help keep the school open.

The ministry's special education manager, Brian Coffey, said if the residential special schools closed, pupils would instead receive "tailored wraparound support" in their own school, community or home.

"This is not about cost-saving, it is about better use of the current funding." A final decision on the future of the schools will be made in October.

Submissions can be made at


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