Ex-pupils saddened by removal plan

By Sonya Bateson


The fate of Otumoetai Primary School's historic classroom is now in the hands of the Ministry of Education after the Board of Trustees voted to remove the building from the school site.

The school's Board of Trustees held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the fate of the 115-year-old building, resulting in a decision to remove the building from the school grounds.

The Bay of Plenty Times attended the public forum portion of the meeting but was asked to leave with other members of the public while the board made its decision.

Ex-pupil Ross List was taught in the old classroom from 1942 to 1951 and spoke about his wish to have the classroom retained at the school site. He was disappointed by the board's decision, but said the fight wasn't over yet.

"We will organise something if we can. The school only has one chance to get this right, once the classroom is removed, that's it. It should be set up with the old school desks and ink wells we had so people can walk through it."

Mr List said if the building was removed from the site, it would lose its historic significance. "They should be looking to find some way around the regulations, that room is a historic building. I think it was a foregone conclusion to remove the building."

Bryan Darragh, another ex-pupil of the school, said he and other ex-pupils and teachers were disappointed in the decision.

"We will do everything we can to work with the board of trustees and Ministry of Education to retain the classroom in Otumoetai in the future to allow present and future generations to see what conditions were for children in the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s."

Principal Geoff Opie spoke at the meeting about the reasons behind the proposal.

"The Ministry right now is clear they see that building as part of our square meterage and we are oversized. They decide our five-year allowance and how we spend that has to be approved by them. They've said it would be useless to put any of that into the building."

Mr Opie said while he appreciated the historic connections to the building, a pragmatic decision was needed for the students.

He said there had been interest from the Historic Village and from local iwi about finding a new home for the building.

Board chairwoman Jackie Webb said: "The board has resolved that the building be removed with a recommendation from the board that local interest has some say in its final destination."

Mrs Webb said it had been a difficult decision for the board in the sense of honouring former students and staff and the past life of the school while having to make a pragmatic decision for the needs of current students.

" ... the building is owned by the Crown and the Ministry of Education will now take over the removal process."

Otumoetai Primary's historic classroom

  • First built in the 1890s

  • Cost one £169 and accommodated entire school roll of 28 pupils

  • Original classroom extended in 1920s when roll grew to 40 students

  • In recent years, the school roll has catered for about 575 to 590 students

  • The classroom has been moved twice in its history

  • Currently used to accommodate an after- school programme

- Bay of Plenty Times

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