Rotorua Girls' High School has added a feather to its cap, fulfilling the dream its principal has had since she joined the school.
The school is planning to open a boarding hostel in term four this year - the first girls' state school boarding hostel in the wider Bay of Plenty region.
The move is a partnership with tertiary institute Toi Ohomai and will transform an established and newly renovated 32-room lodge on the polytechnic campus' outskirts into a hostel for Year 9 to 13 students.
The hostel, which will be called Te Whare Whawhao, will open for Years 9 and 10 in October before opening for all girls up to Year 13 from term 1 next year. It can take up to 63 girls.
The school is in the process of employing staff and completing Ministry of Education licensing.
The hostel has been the dream of principal Sarah Davis since she started leading the school in 2019, given her background of working with hostels in her role as Timaru Girls' High School principal and being a girls' hostel director in Canada.
"I'm a great believer in girls' education and there will be quite a few whānau who will be excited about this announcement because it will give them a great option for girls' education in a state school."
She said several children, particularly in rural communities, didn't get the opportunity of having the education that was offered at Rotorua Girls' High School.
Other girls were already travelling long distances each day or staying with relatives in Rotorua to attend the school.
She said it was a win for all those families and a win for girls' high as it meant the school would be more accessible to more "fantastic and talented children".
She said in her experience the "hostel kids" had something to prove, relished the opportunity they were given and were often the great achievers academically, in sports and when it came time for awards and naming of prefects.
"They come with a purpose of doing well. We can now tap into an amazing talent pool and I see this as being the feather in the cap for our school."
She said Rotorua Boys' High School principal Chris Grinter had fully encouraged and supported the school in its bid to get a hostel on the back of his school's huge success.
Davis said the boys' hostel was a leading example and had a waiting list of about 100.
Davis said the opportunity given to them by Toi Ohomai came at the right time and the facilities couldn't be more perfect.
The building, which had in the past been used for international students, had recently been renovated, was perfectly suited, was within walking distance to the school and was set on picturesque and peaceful grounds.
Davis acknowledged that sending a child to boarding school was a big step and the hostel would have a huge responsibility to make it comfortable for the girls.
"It needs to be a home away from home, safe, secure and nurturing. That is our moral purpose."
Kaumātua Rawiri Waru said Ngāti Whakaue had gifted the name Te Whare Whawhao, the name of a Te Arawa ancestor who saved a lot of people on Mokoia Island many years ago.
Waru said her actions made everyone safe by getting them to fit inside a house, so they felt it was a fitting name for the new girls' hostel.
Dr Logan Bannister from Toi Ohomai said the park-like environment at the lodge was perfect for the plan.
She said it was a win-win partnership with the school with opportunities for the girls to progress their learning at Toi Ohomai.
Davis encouraged families of girls interested in the school to start thinking about their options.
More details about the hostel will be made available at a later date.