School’s fate in minister’s hands

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Hands-on science. . . Glenham School pupils Ida Rabbidge (5) Reid Welch (9) and Ted Rabbidge (7) check the quality of the water from the Glenelgin Stream that runs near the school. PHOTO:SUPPLIED

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins will decide the fate of Glenham School.

A request for the voluntary closure of the school has been made to the minister by the school’s commissioner, Nicola Hornsey.

In October last year the school board of trustees was dissolved and Ms Hornsey was appointed as a commissioner to take the place of the board.

In December, principal Cheryl White resigned to take up a new position at Mossburn School.

Karen Stirling, who has been teaching at the school for many years, has been acting principal.

The school roll had been dropping and there were vacancies on the board of trustees that could not be filled, Ms Hornsey said.

She had been meeting parents and community members to decide what the best course of action was.

“I think everyone can understand the reasoning behind it.”

There were about eight on the roll in October but now only three pupils were left.

“There are no preschoolers that are due to start in at least the next 12 or 18 months.

“There just aren’t enough young ones to support keeping it open.”

If the request to close the school was granted it would not close before the end of the year, she said.

“We might not have any students but will still officially be open.”

Whether the community would still be able to run the Glenham Trainwreck Trail fundraiser was one question the community had, she said.

The annual trail ride starts and ends at the school and travels over farmland and through the historic Glenham train tunnel.

The future of the land and building was still unknown, Ms Hornsey said.

“There are about 10 steps [to go through] if it is going to be sold.”

In the past 20 years or so, some rural schools had faced similar challenges to Glenham as farms became bigger and fewer people were employed on them, she said.

Sometimes, if people lived in the country but worked in a town, rather than send their children to the closest school they would take their children to a bigger school in the town.

Former Mokoreta farmer and historian George Taylor is partway through writing a history of Glenham.

The Otago Southland Investment Company, which owned the Glenham Estate, gave the land for the school to the Southland Education Board in 1898, Mr Taylor said.

“The school was built and opened in 1899.”

The company built a dairy factory and houses and put sharemilkers on the land.

“They had enough people in Glenham from that point to warrant a school.”