Omanu forced to shrink school zone

By Sandra Conchie

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Omanu School is full to capacity. Photo / John Borren
Omanu School is full to capacity. Photo / John Borren

Rapid student roll growth has forced Omanu School to reduce its enrolment zone to prevent overcrowding.

The new reduced zone extends from both sides of Concord Avenue in the south, to both sides of Clyde St in the north and excludes the Bayfair Estate area. Children living in the Bayfair Estate area would likely be captured by neighbouring Arataki School which has no enrolment zone and is believed to have some growth capacity.

One student's parent, who did not want to be named, said she was unhappy as she had specifically bought in the area last year so her child could attend the school. She was also worried about the effect on property values. Other parents spoken to outside Omanu School were in favour of the move.

Finella Moore, who has two children at the school, said while the change does not directly affect her family, she supports the move if it helps reduce overloading classrooms. Oceanbeach Rd resident Haylee Foster, 30, said her two children attend the school, and at the beginning of the year also applied for her youngest child to start next year.

"It's a bit worrying as we're now living slightly out of zone but I fully understand why the change is being put in place and support it if it's good for the children's education in the long term," she said.

Omanu School principal Rex Allott said the zone change, which comes into force from start of term one next year, was necessary to prevent the risk of overcrowding. Mr Allott said the roll has more than doubled in the past 13 years and the biggest growth area is in the five-year-old new entrants which is probably the case at a number of other schools.

About 20 per cent of the children live out-of-zone, and the aim of zone change is to reduce the roll to 550-560 within the next two years, he said.

"Currently our school roll stands at 573 and by the end of the year we expect it to reach 590. That compares to 562 students at the end of last year," he said.

Mr Abbott said it is extremely important for parents to lodge their pre-enrolment forms for next year as soon as possible. Acceptance of out-of-zone enrolments would depend on in-zone enrolment projections and the number of in-zone enrolments. Mr Allott said the zone change is the result of an Education Ministry directive to reduce enrolment growth and follows consultation with the school community and local community. The ministry has recently endorsed the change, he said. "Our roll has grown so much that we are having to use the library, our technology and music rooms as teaching rooms, and last year we also used some community-funded buildings."

Mr Allott said once the school's new classroom, presently being built, is ready for occupation, there would also be no more space on the school grounds for other buildings, and no extra funding coming.

He said the last time there was minor adjustment in the zone was in 2004. In 2006, the enrolment zone was actually extended up Concord Ave to Girven Rd. "It has been a difficult situation for the school to be in and to make but reducing the roll is vital to continue to provide a quality education, and we have to work within the current facilities.

Arataki School and Mount Maunganui Primary principals could not be contacted for comment.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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