Schools reshuffle likely

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Frankton senior high. Gorge Rd junior high. Arrowtown classes cut

The Ministry of Education is planning a major reshuffle of Wakatipu schools.

The MoE has been reviewing education facilities in the Wakatipu Basin since last November in view of the district’s projected exploding population in the next 10-20 years.

Opus, the firm contracted to prepare a report for the Minister of Education, has tabled its visions for public feedback. They include:

  • Restricting primary sch­­­ools to Years 0-6.
  • Establishing a junior high for Years 7-10 at the Waka­­tipu High site.
  • Building a senior high school at Frankton, Lake Hayes or Arrowtown for Years 11-13.
  • Providing tertiary educ­ation at the senior high campus.
  • Providing early child­hood education facilities at new primary schools.

So Arrowtown School could lose its intermediate status and Wakatipu High could doss down with the Southern Institute of Tech­nology or an Otago Uni­versity satellite campus.

Frankton’s proposed Re­­mark­­­­­­­­­ables Primary, mean­while, is still awaiting MoE approval.

Opus’s Tim Priddy says he hopes to have a strategy report ready for the Minister by Christmas – but Wakatipu schools don’t foresee any short-term action.

Says Queenstown Pri­­­­mary principal John Western: “We are very uncertain of what the landscape would look like.

“[But] knowing how slow the Ministry moves, there may be a period of time where the high school will run out of capacity. If they are going to build a new dedicated senior high school/tertiary facility, we may need to keep Year 7 and 8 as Arrowtown [School] does.”

Queenstown Primary is full up, he says. It put two relocatable buildings onsite this year and hopes to build a five-classroom block in early 2009.

Arrowtown School prin­cipal Robin Harris says he’d lose about a sixth of his 410-odd students if an intermediate school went ahead.

He says he has little faith in the consultation process.

“The Ministry will have something in mind and the best economic decision will be what they’ll choose – it’s usually not a hell of a lot to do with schools.”

Wakatipu High’s board chairman Peter Doyle reckons the school was un­­impressed by the visions.

It submitted its own plan – for an all-age com­­­­m­­­unity centre combining edu­cation, social support services, transport and recreation at Frankton Flats.

Doyle says he isn’t hope­­­­ful the MoE will give Wakatipu High a clear solution for its shrinking space – its 860 enrolments could reach 1200 by the start of 2010.

“We’ve given them all sorts of options – build on the school, get rid of some of the prefabs, buy the [former] Smiths City building – but they dictate what happens,” he says.

“We’ve been telling them for years and years that we’re running out of land but getting decisions out of them is like getting blood out of a stone.”