A new primary school is on the cards for Queenstown.
The Ministry of Education’s Katrina Casey confirms it’s on the hunt for a suitable location in the Wakatipu – but won’t reveal where.
The news isn’t surprising given a hike in Queenstown school rolls this year.
Casey says in an emailed statement: “We think it’s likely we will need to build another primary school in the area.
“We are currently evaluating possible sites for this.
“We don’t comment on potential sites while we are in the process of identifying and acquiring them, as this information is commercially sensitive.”
Shotover Primary jumped from 319 to 363 pupils and Arrowtown Primary started the term with 544 youngsters – expected to jump to 600 by the end of the year.
Local school heads are welcoming the ministry’s move.
St Joseph’s Primary School head Trisch Inder says the common-sense approach would be to plonk it near new development areas.
“I think to manage the growth it has to be outside [the CBD] and the growth is Frankton, Lake Hayes and Shotover. So, really, they are looking at where the best location is.”
The ministry published its first ‘growth plan’ in 2009, when Remarkables Primary, Shotover Primary and the relocation of Wakatipu High School, to a Frankton site, were all given the green light.
It brought in a facilitator last year to assess needs over the next 10 to 20 years.
Inder says that shows it’s listening.
“I think the ministry this time realised it needed to be more proactive and needed to consult more with the community – working with all the schools, meeting with parents to try and find out what is going on in the area.
“It worked more closely with schools and wanted to listen to the local voice.”
Arrowtown principal Chris Bryant agrees.
“It [ministry] is being proactive about it – the solution is not going to be an easy one … I don’t think anyone could have anticipated what was going to happen in the Wakatipu Basin. The growth has been far greater than expected.”
Arrowtown, which has had to bowl some leaky buildings, is getting seven new classrooms as part of its redevelopment plan.
Shotover Primary School will get eight new learning spaces in its next stage.
Casey confirms that work’s at the design stage.
She stresses schools can currently cope with growing pains.
More space will be created at Remarkables Primary when Frankton Playcentre gets the boot from the school site.
The ministry is spending around $1.5m to move the playcentre to a new location in Remarkables Park – hopefully by the middle of the year.
Queenstown Primary principal Fiona Cavanagh says a new school, outside the CBD, is great news for parents and pupils living in new residential areas.
While it saw a slight decrease in its head count this year, she says going to school within your local community is extremely important.
The ministry hasn’t always been top of the class with local schools.
In 2014, it presented a plan to cut school bus routes but backed off after a public outcry.
Three years earlier, it drastically changed Remarkables Primary’s zone to battle overcrowding.
As reported in last week’s Mountain Scene, a proposed education and technology campus at Jack’s Point has been scrapped.
Jack’s Point, taking in Hanley’s Farm, could be home to up to 10,000 people when fully developed.