A new primary school is being planned for Pāpāmoa and the Education Minister's decision is pending. The Catholic Diocese, Ministry of Education and school community leaders tell Sandra Conchie about the proposal.
A 250-pupil Catholic primary school proposed for Pāpāmoa would help manage "extraordinary roll growth" in the area, neighbouring principals say.
Suzanne Aubert Catholic School is awaiting sign off from the Government and, if approved, would open in 2021.
A decision is likely to be made in the next few months but the project already has the support of Tauranga's fastest-growing community and school principals in the suburb.
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The Catholic Diocese of Hamilton hopes to establish the state-integrated school on undeveloped land at the intersection of Golden Sands Drive and The Boulevard.
Graeme Roil, the Catholic Integrated Schools Office property and finance manager, said
the land was bought for this purpose about five to six years ago.
The ministry had sought expressions of interest for five people to make up the Establishment Board of Trustees for the proposed school.
If established, the Suzanne Aubert Catholic School would be a Year 1 to Year 6 state-integrated school serving the Pāpāmoa and Te Puke communities.
The plan was for the school to open in Term 1, 2021.
It would be named after French-born Suzanne Aubert, who died in Wellington in 1926. She is better known to many as Catholic Sister Mary Joseph or Mother Aubert and devoted her life to helping others.
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Roil said he hoped Education Minister Chris Hipkins would make his decision in the next few months as there was a strong demand for this kind of school in the area.
Design plans for the multimillion-dollar project were well-advanced but the exact footprint of the school and key features were part of ongoing discussions, he said.
Roil said the potential maximum roll would be 250 students.
"We know many people who would welcome another primary school closer to where they live but others may still want to travel into the city for a variety of reasons.
"But we have no intention of building this school at the expense of other schools."
Roil said the establishment of the school would be in partnership with the Crown but the Catholic Diocese would own the land and buildings and fully fund the project.
The Diocese had been having "constructive and positive dialogue" with the Crown officials.
Pāpāmoa ward councillor Steve Morris said there was a "significant need" for another primary school in the area.
Morris said there was no doubt the new school would have community support, particularly given the amount of travel involved each week by students and parents.
"My concern is how up-to-date the Education Ministry is with its future planning for growth in secondary school infrastructure in the area as the roll at Pāpāmoa Primary has expanded quite a lot," he said.
Pāpāmoa Primary School principal Phil Friar said his school's roll was now 723, that's 61 more than in November last year.
"We have seen enormous property development in Pāpāmoa and I see having another school as a positive to help manage the extraordinary roll growth in this area," he said.
Golden Sands School principal Melanie Taylor said her school was experiencing "rapid growth", increasing at 50 to 100 students a year, and the current roll was just under 700.
Taylor said a new school would give parents another option which was "a good thing".
"If it helped slow down the pace of our roll growth to a more manageable level that would be beneficial too," she said.
Aquinas College principal Matt Dillon said the college's community welcomed the move.
"We have an expanding Catholic community in Pāpāmoa and Te Puke and this new school will serve the needs of these families looking for Catholic education," he said.
Jade Riley, who had two children at Aquinas College, said she believed the Catholic Diocese would have "no trouble" filling up its proposed new school.
Riley's 12-year-old son attended St Thomas More School last year.
Reduced travel time would make the proposed new school a "major drawcard" for many parents from Pāpāmoa and Te Puke and attract others to move into the district, she said.
Katrina Casey, the Ministry of Education's deputy secretary of enablement and support, said the close-off date for applications on the establishment board was December 13.
"We will then develop a report for the minister which includes details of the proposed school, its integration agreement and the appointees to the Establishment Board.
"We expect that the minister will consider this report at some point during Term 1, 2020."