Parents of special needs youngsters are having to go on a waiting list to access specialist education at Goldfields School, which is "bursting at the seams" and cannot take any more senior students.
"People move here just for the school," says principal Cam Mackenzie.
"It has a very good reputation."
The Paeroa school caters to people aged 5 to 21 with high needs and offers play therapy and specialist speech and physiotherapy teams, a heated pool, sensory room, seven transport vans and individualised communication systems allowing students to get their message across.
Speech and language is an important service offered, because half the school's population doesn't speak.
"Our therapy team work in all the classes. Therapy teams are spread so thin normally, whereas here they work with the students all the time."
Many of the teachers are trained in what's known as play-based learning, which is common in early childhood education training. Cam says early childhood teachers make great teachers of youngsters with special needs.
The school also has numerous teacher aides and volunteers, which allows for low ratios - another drawcard for families who are sending students from within a 40km radius of Paeroa.
Goldfields School also has students at Paeroa College, Miller Ave School in Paeroa and Thames South School, and sends teachers to these schools, allowing students capable of being in a mainstream school to stay within their own communities.
However, Cam says principals of mainstream schools contact him regularly with requests to take students who are not coping in a mainstream environment where ratios can be high.
At Goldfields School, most classes have seven or eight students of varying age but similar learning abilities, and a ratio of one teacher and two teacher aides a class, with some students receiving almost one-on-one education because of their high needs.
"All the specialist schools are full to the brim, all across Waikato. Our roll has seriously increased, from 65 to 86, which is a lot for a special school," he says.
"It was just over 40 eight years ago."
Deputy principal Lynne Matheson says the stigma that once existed over families sending their youngsters to a special school had dissipated and she believed there were many families moving down from Auckland, and that added to the roll pressure.
Among the lucky parents is Dana Milleway of Tairua, who works night shifts and is able to send her son Shane Alexandra, age 5, to Thames South School and Goldfields School.
"He loves the school, he wants to go every day," says Dana. "He wakes up and gets ready early."
Dana said initially there was a question over transportation for Shane but the Ministry of Education had been helpful and agreed to fund his transport costs.
"It's far away but he didn't fit in Tairua School. He's a runner and needs a fully covered and fully fenced place to do his study."
This year's level 4 lockdown had been an opportunity for the school staff and specialists, including music and art teachers, to help families who were juggling at-home work, education of other students trying to do online schooling, and the care of their special needs son or daughter.
The teachers provided "hard packs" that included colouring-in books, play dough recipes and home activities as well as delivering standing frames and other equipment for use at home by families.
A great deal was done by Zoom, and adaptable teachers found solutions, including on the day the music teacher had to teach an entire lesson with no audio.
"It was quite good to make connections with families so you saw the other siblings and they would join in our students' lesson," says Lynne.
"For a lot of families, the best support we could give them was reassurance to not worry too much about education falling behind. Our teachers would often stay on a Zoom call after a lesson and just talk to a parent."
The communities of Thames and Hauraki were hugely supportive of the school, said McKenzie, who said residents "drop by" with donations. Among donations that came in recently is one from an elderly resident writing to congratulate the school on its work.