Rotorua principals have mixed feelings about losing the power to set zoning schemes under a new system.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that a new "Education Service Agency" will take over zoning in each region, and will take the lead role in planning new and improved school buildings.
It will replace the 30-year-old self-governing schools regime.
School zones would be drawn on a regional basis in an attempt to achieve more equal outcomes for all students and to stop schools "creaming off" the best students to compete against one another.
"In light of these issues, the Government proposes the ESA [Education Service Agency] would assume, at a regional level, responsibility for developing a new enrolment scheme, or modifying an existing scheme, and consulting with relevant stakeholders," Hipkins said.
Otonga Rd Primary School principal Linda Woon was concerned about empty seats.
Woon said the school roll dropped from 650 pupils to 560 when a school zone was introduced.
"I can see it being a real challenge for the future and, potentially, unless our zone is increased, empty classrooms in the school."
Lynmore Primary School principal Lorraine Taylor liked the sound of power being given back to a local office with staff who would know the area, community and dynamics, better than with the current scheme.
The current enrolment scheme was reviewed in Wellington.
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She said schools currently could not set their own zones without it being reviewed anyway, which meant a local would know if something like a new road was put in.
Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins said he was unsure the change to the zoning would affect the schools as school zones were currently managed by the Ministry.
Watkins said there was a lot of ambiguity in documents and more specifics needed to be released.
"A lot of these innovations are going to rolled out over five to 10 years, what a yawn, get on with it. If we're going to do the damn thing let's not muck around with it."
Watkins said the announcement was "sad and disappointing," as it missed significant issues schools faced such as good quality personal development for staff and support for special needs support in schools.
Hipkins said the current system allowed schools to "manipulate the zone based on areas they may wish to take students from; for example, including high socio-economic neighbourhoods while excluding closer, yet more disadvantaged, neighbourhoods".
ESA will have "a strong local presence" but will be "part of a redesigned Ministry of Education, which will provide central expertise and services, including new curriculum and leadership services".
It will take a stronger role in planning school buildings in line with the new regional zoning plans, but a policy document released with Hipkins' announcement indicates that the Government will move cautiously.
-Additional reporting: Simon Collins