Is this New Zealand's smallest school?

By Janna Sherman

The roll at the school in the small town of Fox Glacier is dependent on families settling in the area for work. Photo / File
The roll at the school in the small town of Fox Glacier is dependent on families settling in the area for work. Photo / File

The Fox Glacier School roll has fallen to five, its lowest number in over 20 years when the village school was briefly closed.

However, both the Ministry of Education and school board say the doors will be staying open.

Former principal Casper Kruger said the school was closed on a temporary basis in the 1980s when numbers dropped below five.

Kruger led the school for 18 months as the sole teacher-principal until he took on the principal position at Kokatahi-Kowhitirangi last month.

The board in that time had never discussed closing.

"Its never been to that point at all," he said. "If ever the school closed it would be disastrous for the town. It's a fantastic little school with lots of resources."

He said the five students - from four families - would be at the school for at least the next three years.

A number of new entrants were expected to start in the new school year.

The small class numbers meant students were thriving with one-on-one learning and that was reflected in its Education Review Office reports.

The ministry agreed.

"We think Fox Glacier School is doing a good job," acting head of sector enablement and support Steve Stuart said. "Its most recent ERO report noted its high quality of teaching."

The ministry was to visit the Fox school later this month for a regular meeting where the roll would be discussed.

However, it was not concerned with the current level as the school had a long history of fluctuations in its roll, Stuart said.

"The roll is very dependent on which families are settling in the area for work reasons."

In the 1980s the school was temporarily closed for a year because it did not have any pupils, reopening the following year.

Stuart said small, rural schools were an important part of its school system.

"There is no roll number at which we would automatically consider closing a school. Rather, when a school does close, it's more often because a board of trustees has voluntarily sought to close because they believe a school is not educationally viable and there is good education provision nearby.

"In the case of Fox Glacier School, the nearest alternative school is half an hour's drive away, meaning this school is an important part of the wider network of schools in this area."

In 2012 the Ministry closed Jacobs River School when the roll dropped to four.

Fox Glacier School started the year with nine pupils, down from 18 last year.

Ministry statistics show in 2014 the roll was at 24, and 32 in 2013. In 2011 and 2012 it was sitting at 24 and 27 respectively.

- Hokitika Guardian

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