Schools can be the heart of their communities. In the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes, schools played a stabilising role not just for students, but for parents and staff as well. Schools were one of the rocks around which the city was able to regain hope in a return to normalcy.
Now though, the Government has ripped the hearts out of some of the hardest hit communities.
While we rejoice with those school communities who were spared, we share the sentiment of Ouruhia School, one of those who managed to defeat a closure proposal, who said that their “heart goes out to all the other school communities, parents, teachers, support staff and most of all to our young ones whose schools are closing.”
Currently, seven schools are set to close and twelve more to merge. This number could be added to in the coming months as decisions on the status of a number of schools is still yet to be determined, including the five schools in the Aranui Cluster.
The thoughts of all the Green Party go out to the students, parents and teachers of Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond, all of which are planned to close.
Richard Chambers, the head of Manning Intermediate has stated that “The minister promised us that we would have two years no matter what. It was a guarantee she made to our community repeatedly, it was unequivocal”.
Now though, it seems his school may be closed at the end of the year, creating further disruption in the lives of everyone associated with the school.
That disruption will be even larger for Christchurch’s disabled students. CCS Disability Action has noted that “not all schools are welcoming to disabled students” and that “for the majority of families with disabled students choosing a school was a stressful draining experience.”
There is currently no plan in place from the Ministry to ensure that disabled students are welcome and supported at their new schools, or to ensure that their support programs and resources transfer smoothly.
With the census coming up in just two weeks, it is remarkable that Hekia Parata was not willing to wait for the most reliable data on population movement in Christchurch. Similarly, her decisions do not take into account the vital work being done by communities, and supported by the Christchurch City Council and CERA, to plan for renewal in many hard hit suburbs, including the work in New Brighton.
Closing schools now undermines that hard work that could have a huge potential impact on population, and therefore school rolls.
Hekia Parata owes an unequivocal apology to the people of Christchurch for the on-going misinformation and stress she has forced upon all those involved in this disastrous process.
At every step in this process, schools have complained that they were not adequately consulted, that they were not listened to and that their concerns were never addressed. Still, Hekia Parata has not apologised.
Throughout this whole process, the one thing that has not changed is the inconsistent approach by this Minister. She says one thing to some, then the opposite to others. She promises one thing, then delivers another.
It appears that some of the schools may have been saved simply because they were able to lobby the most effectively. This is an unacceptable way to make decisions that impact so heavily on the lives of so many children, parents, teachers and support staff.
In the coming weeks and months, the Green Party will continue to stand strong with the people of Christchurch as they continue to fight to save their schools and restore their wonderful city.