Four Christchurch schools to close

By Kate Shuttleworth, Kurt Bayer

Minister for Education Hekia Parata. Photo / David White.
Minister for Education Hekia Parata. Photo / David White.

Four Christchurch schools have been told they will be closed to form a new super school.

Aranui High School, Aranui Primary, Wainoni and Avondale will close to form one school that caters to years 1 to 13.

It would be built on the Aranui High School grounds.

Chisnallwood Intermediate, which was originally proposed to be merged, will remain open, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced this afternoon.

Education Ministry staff would speak to each school and principals and board members would then meet Ms Parata.

Ms Parata announced last September a proposal to close Avondale, Wainoni and Aranui schools, Aranui High School and Chisnallwood Intermediate to form one school.

Chisnallwood and Avondale opposed the proposal, while the other three schools supported it in varying forms.

The Aranui schools will now have six weeks to provide further feedback on the interim decision until July 3.

Another 17 Christchurch schools are proposed for closure or merger and are set to have a final decision by the end of the month.

Ms Parata said Chisallwood would remain open on its current site and would be reviewed in 2020.

Prime Minister John Key acknowledged that the schools shake-up had been a "painful process'' for a city recovering from a major disaster.

"I certainly acknowledge the stress on those schools and the communities and we've done everything we can to minimise that on the back of what has been a very difficult situation,'' he said.

But he was at pains to stress that the $1 billion Government cash injection would give Christchurch "21st century learning facilities that will actually serve the children of future generations very well''.

Chisnallwood Intermediate principal Richard Paton was delighted that his school would stay open.

He praised Ms Parata for paying attention to their strong submissions against merger or closure.

"Everyone is absolutely over the moon,'' he said, speaking on his way to a debrief with the ministry this afternoon.

Around 800 students, staff and parents clapped and cheered when they were told the news this afternoon.

"The support of everybody in the community has been overwhelming, and the nice thing is that they've got the result they wanted, and as a school, it's up to us now to work with them and give them the best opportunities they could ever wish for.''

While it was a great day for his school, Mr Paton acknowledged the pain Avondale Primary would be going through.

Aranui Primary principal Mike Allen said that while some of his parents were resigned to the decision and are
OK with it'', others are disappointed and unhappy.

But he said: "At least we've finally got a decision and we can move forward.''

Since the announcement last year that his school was one tipped for closure or merger, he said it's been "pretty unpleasant''.

There is still some uncertainty over the future, he said, with a lot of questions needing to be answered before the final decision is made in September.

One of the major uncertainties is whether all of his staff, including himself, still has a job come 2017.

"If everything goes the way the interim decision looks, then I think we've got some incredible opportunities to make a huge difference in the area.''

- APNZ

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