Whatuwhiwhi's Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rangiawhia, the Far North's first Maori language immersion school and the only one in the Ngati Kahu rohe, will officially be closed by the Ministry of Education tomorrow.
John McMahon, who was elected to chair the board of trustees earlier this year, said the community could not begin to understand the decision, but the fight was far from over.
The board of trustees was replaced by commissioner Tunny McFadyen on July 25 in response to ministry concerns including governance issues, alleged aggressive behaviour towards staff, a breakdown in relationships and trouble recruiting staff.
School whanau received the bad news on Monday. Mr McMahon said they were angry and disappointed.
"They were gutted. For five months they worked so hard to challenge the Minister's objection to re-opening the kura," he said.
The pupils had been transferred to other schools from the start of Term 3 after the principal chose not to renew her contract, and the two teachers did not return from their holiday.
Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu chief executive Anahera Herbert-Graves said re-opening, possibly as a charter school, would not be out of the question, however.
"I'm very sad, but we are determined that regardless, the kura will open in some shape or form," she said.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said concerns raised by the ERO about student achievement, on-going disharmony affecting students and failure to find a new principal had contributed to the decision to close the school.
"The kura has had serious, long-standing issues, and this decision has been made in the best interests of children and their education," she said, but Mr McMahon argued that those issues had arisen under the previous board, and the community desperately wanted to keep the kura open.
He was also critical of the process, saying that, after five months of "pissing around," Ms Parata had given the community just one week to make final submissions.
Ms Parata said several proposals had been received during the consultation process, but they all depended on successfully appointing a principal.
Mr McMahon said the position had been advertised in July, but had been withdrawn by Mr McFadyen after a week. And offers of support had been received from eight Far North kura.
Ms Parata said the community had suggested a number of potential principals, but none had been suitably experienced, and no appointment was made despite offering an additional recruitment allowance.
"You have to advertise to do that," Mr McMahon responded.
"The community has advertised through networking, but since when did advertising for staff rely on networking?
"There's a lot of bloody-mindedness here, a degree of pre-determination," he added, "but the whanau will fight this. We want the truth behind why the decision was made. We have met every ministry demand and addressed every concern, and we don't believe there is any reason at all to close it."