Otamarakau School will celebrate 100 years of history this weekend.

The school officially opened on August 1, 1916, with a roll of nine students. Within a few months it had grown to 15 students.

The school first consisted of a single building about six by four metres in size. There were two outside toilet blocks and a small shelter shed, which cost 120 to build.

Harold Cameron started at Otamarakau School in 1937 when he was five.

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A photo of the former school and students in 1927.
A photo of the former school and students in 1927.

Living in the Otamarakau Valley he would ride his bike, or horse to school or catch a ride with a local along with other children from the valley.

Mr Cameron studied in three different classrooms during his time at the school - the original school block which was built in 1916, the Otamarakau Hall, and then the new school block which was completed in 1941.

They used to walk down to the beach to have swimming lessons and teaching was done via blackboard and chalk while the students used nib and ink to write in their books - although the ink wells often froze during winter, he said.

"And dusters - sometimes the dusters were thrown around. We learnt our times tables by singing.

"They stuck in my memories for years."

Mr Cameron said he could still remember playing marbles at the old school on a nice bit of "bare ground".

"Up at the new school it was all concreted and grassed - nowhere to play marbles."

Mr Cameron said when he started in the new school building in the 1940s the school roll had gone up to about 40 students.

A photo of the former school and students in 1940.
A photo of the former school and students in 1940.

Over his years, the school roll fluctuated with about 120 students the most in any one year.

The Te Puke local sent his children to the same school, before going to Pongakawa and his grandchildren attended the school too, he said.

Former Otamarakau teacher Cherie Mortensen said the celebration was a good way for former students, teachers and Otamarakau locals to get together because the school was the heart of the Otamarakau Valley.

"The school itself may be small, but the community is huge and it has a big heart.

"With our school and our district, our community is there for everybody.

"If anything happens, good or bad."

Mrs Mortensen said she loved the family feeling within the school.

"You go in there and the kids open their hearts to you. They care for each, they look after each other."

This year the school has a roll of about 58 students.

Celebrating 100 years:

* The weekend includes a meet and greet tonight. Official celebrations kick off at 9.30am tomorrow. The school bell is to be rung by one of the school's eldest students followed by items from today's students, speeches by different dignitaries including Western Bay of Plenty Council mayor Ross Paterson, a roll call, and cutting of a cake. A dinner and dance would also be held tomorrow night at the Action Centre in Pongakawa.