The Ministry of Education has proposed moving Hawea Flat School to Lake Hawea within the next 10 years and has pulled the pin on a new permanent classroom development scheduled to open by the start of term four.
Because it it is now investigating buying land in the bigger township, the ministry can no longer justify the current classroom development.
Instead, it will supply eight new, prefabricated, standard classrooms ready for use at the start of 2023 school year, and will reinstate the school’s bike park, which has been disrupted by earthworks.
The 3.5ha rural school was founded in 1882 and has a roll of 280, expected to rise to 320 by the end of the year and 500 in the next decade.
School mum, Anna van Riel has called a community meeting on June 27 to see if a united “Hawea family” voice could be found to inform the ministry about what it wants.
Ms van Riel said representatives from the district’s Shaping our Futures team had indicated they would attend and help provide structure to the meeting.
She was not representing the school and merely wished to connect and engage the community across generations and include newcomers, she said.
“I want it to be by the people, for the people. I am hoping for a warm and kind conversation. When a representative from the Ministry of Education comes down to talk to us, we as a community will be able to talk about what we need. Otherwise, the decision will be made for us,” Ms van Riel said.
Hawea Flat local Jamie Urqhuart went to the school in the late 1950s and was surprised to learn the school would move.
Four generations of his family, from his father Willy Urquhart to his own children and grandchildren, have gone to the school.
Mr Urquhart said he did not have an opinion but wondered if recent population growth created an opportunity for two schools.
“It is just about getting to the point there could be two separate schools, which may be a better option, I don’t know. The demographics are always changing, the costs of transport and fuel are always increasing.
“I would hate to see it go from where it is today. It would be a totally different place for people to grow up here. That’s why most people have come here, to raise people in a relatively rural setting.
The Hawea Flat School board of trustees has released a ministry document stating: “Hawea Flat School will continue won’t be a second school, as we believe one larger school can meet the future needs of this community.”