Special school opens $1m unit

By Sonya Bateson

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Kaka St Special School has opened up a new satellite unit at Papamoa College. Pictured are students Devon Burt, 12 (left), and Jason Te Pohe, 16, with principal Barrie Wickens. Photo/John Borren
Kaka St Special School has opened up a new satellite unit at Papamoa College. Pictured are students Devon Burt, 12 (left), and Jason Te Pohe, 16, with principal Barrie Wickens. Photo/John Borren

A $1 million Kaka St Special School satellite unit has been developed at Papamoa College to give parents greater choice about where to send their special needs children.

The satellite unit was built next to the existing Papamoa College special needs unit to allow the sharing of resources such as toilet blocks and the laundry.

Ten students and six staff were housed in the new unit, with capacity for a total 20 students and 10 staff.

The students, while wearing the college uniform and sharing college resources, were enrolled at Kaka St and staff were employed by the school.

Kaka St principal Barrie Wickens said opening a satellite unit on college grounds gave parents greater choice about where they could send their special needs students.

He said the development cost a total $1 million, with $730,000 contributed by Kaka St and the remainder funded by the Government.

"This is our first college-based satellite. This completes us as a school. Kaka St as a whole has 71 students, that's the most we've had since opening in 1965. We're expecting to get up to 100 by 2015.

"Our ultimate aim is to make ourselves indispensable in the Bay as a special needs centre."

Mr Wickens said a special school differed from a special needs unit at a mainstream school in the way it was funded and the extra programmes it could deliver, such as physiotherapy and speech, language and music therapy.

Papamoa College satellite head teacher Kelley Heron said the facilities at the new classroom were amazing.

Miss Heron came to the satellite from Kaka St's Courtney Rd off-site class and said the new facility was a "big step up" space and technology wise.

Other Kaka St satellites were already established at Tauranga Primary, Tauranga Intermediate and Merivale School. A unit was planned to open mid year at Welcome Bay School, and another towards the end of the year at Brookfield School.

Mr Wickens said he hoped to open a community transition group by the end of the year, a group targeted at 18-to-21-year-olds and based in a leased community centre rather than a permanent school building.

This gave greater opportunity to teach students life skills rather than traditional school subjects.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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