Community members have celebrated a small school with a big heart, in a final recognition of its contribution to the district.
After more than 120 years of providing primary education for children of the Glenham district, the doors of the school, whose vision was ‘‘small school, big heart, he kura iti, te manawa nui’’, closed for the last time on Monday.
About 150 people gathered at the school on Saturday to share memories and food and wander around the building.
The roll had been steadily dropping and there were vacancies on the board of trustees that could not be filled.
In October 2021, the school’s board of trustees was dissolved and Nicola Hornsey appointed commissioner to take the place of the board.
In May 2022, Ms Hornsey asked Minister of Education Chris Hipkins to approve the voluntary closure of the school, which then had three pupils.
The pupils left the school at the end of term 2.
Mr Hipkins approved the closure of the school at the end of last year.
Acting principal Karen Stirling has worked at the school for 19 years. Her main role at the school had been providing principal release, but in the times between principals she had been acting principal, Mrs Stirling said.
It was ‘‘pretty sad’’ for the school to close, she said.
‘‘I can’t believe I’ve been here that long because it’s always been so good.
‘‘Great kids, wonderful community, great staff.
‘‘Everyone is so supportive.’’
The school’s biggest issue was it did not have a ‘‘future roll’’.
‘‘If we knew we were getting two or three kids each year we would have been fine, but we didn’t have that.’’
She would work at Tokanui School for two days a week, Mrs Stirling said.
Ms Hornsey said it was a day of ‘‘mixed emotions’’.
‘‘Obviously, you don’t get a statutory intervention unless there are some issues, and the main issue facing this school was not enough little people.’’
She had visited the school for the past 18 months, working with the community to find the next steps for the school.
A highlight had been spending time with the ‘‘lovely, lovely students’’.
Usually, she worked in larger schools, where she did not have the same contact with pupils and families, she said.
Former pupil John Howe, of Te Anau, attended the school from 1942 to 1949.
He used to ride his horse to school, Mr Howe said.
In the first year, he doubled behind his brother, but then had a pony of his own.
The horse was ‘‘a skittery bit of a thing’’ that would shy mostly on the way home from school.
‘‘I got dragged once and got knocked out.’’
Parent Dean Rabbidge’s children Ida (6) and Ted (9) were two of the last pupils to leave the school.
Five generations of his family had attended.
‘‘It’s pretty gutting, to be honest.
‘‘Rural schools are pretty solid glue for small communities, so to lose that bind is pretty upsetting.’’
Mr Rabbidge’s father Stephen said his family had a long connection to the school.
‘‘To my knowledge, there was a Rabbidge on the very first day when Glenham School opened and there were Rabbidges again when it was closed.
‘‘It’s a pretty special feat.’’
While members of the family had attended the school, they had also supported it in other ways, including serving on the school committee and board of trustees, he said.
‘‘Even as a grandparent, you’ve still got an involvement in the school.’’
There was a Ministry of Education process to be followed to determine what would happen to the building and land.