The Matahui School community is today coming to grips with an announcement the school may have to close at the end of next term.
The Board of Trustees of the independent western Bay of Plenty primary school told staff, parents and students with great sadness this morning that the school was struggling financially.
Unless assistance could be found urgently, it faced closure at the end of term 3.
Located south of Katikati, Matahui School is a small rural independent school for Years 1-8 that has been offering parents and children an alternative to the state education system for 32 years.
Its ethos includes recognising that each student learns differently and teaching in the way that each student learns best, with a strong emphasis on education outside the classroom and hands-on learning.
Students come from Waihī and Tauranga to attend. It has a roll of 37 pupils.
"This news is deeply upsetting for all of our current and former staff, students and their families. Their wellbeing is paramount," says Matahui School principal, Mary Woods.
"We are informing everyone of this situation at the earliest possible opportunity and we are encouraging our whole community to support one another through this difficult process.
"It will be hardest on our students, but the skills they learn at Matahui will help them to be resilient."
Board of Trustees chairperson Ruth Butter says that since Matahui School was established, it has always faced challenging circumstances and an increasingly tough task in managing scarce resources.
Over the past decade, the surrounding community was devastated by kiwifruit vine disease Psa, including many Matahui families.
The opening of another independent school within Matahui's geographical catchment, albeit different to Matahui in educational approach, also depleted its student roll.
"During 2020, Covid-19 had a significant impact on Matahui," Butter says.
"We lost the ability to host international students due to travel restrictions, we received no government assistance, lost enrolments in the immediate aftermath of lockdown due to financial pressures on families, and lost the core of our community spirit through the restrictions on gatherings for a large part of the year.
"We are still feeling the effects."
At its peak the school's roll was 100.
The school has made numerous inquiries and requests for support, however, none of these have resulted in the financial backing the school needs to continue operating while its student roll rebuilds, says Ruth.
The school is working through the proposal with its staff and its community.