Three fundraisers planned
The group fighting to save Wairarapa College’s Poto House boarding hostel remains confident it will have a viable plan to present to parents by the time boarders return to the school at the end of the school holidays.
The Save Poto House committee had a lengthy meeting with the school’s board last week and while it has yet to get a final agreement that it can take over the hostel, chair Mike Higginbottom says the signs are good.
“We didn’t quite get them to give us the green light – they want to cross their t’s and dot their i’s, and finalise what support they can offer us.
“Our confidence is high, but we realise the board needs to make a sound decision.”
The board announced in May that the hostel would close at the end of this year after 94 years of operation.
It said a combination of dropping enrolments and buildings in dire need of maintenance and refurbishment made the decision to close the hostel unavoidable.
But the Save Poto House group believes it can mobilise supporters to keep the hostel going, with a roll of close to 60 pupils.
This year the hostel has 63 pupils, including 10 Year 13s in their final year at the college.
Higginbottom said a draft budget had been prepared for 2020, but there would need to be a change in the management structure, with some increase in fees likely.
An increase of $2000 was raised at a meeting of parents in June. Five-day boarders pay $10,500 a year.
A reduction in staff was also likely.
“There will have to be staff changes,” he said.
“We will have to do more ourselves, [and] use more volunteers.”
The 13-member committee remained committed to the plan, Higginbottom said.
“The team is really prepared to dig in.”
A charitable trust would be set up to run the hostel if the group’s plans go ahead but there would be considerable initial costs.
Higginbottom said formation of the trust would cost $10,000 – “we’re waiting on the green light from the board”.
He said there would also need to be a full building assessmen required, which would cost a further $10,000, and seismic assessment, particularly of the boy’s dormitory.
“Just to get started, we’re looking at around $35,000 plus GST.
“We’re looking to run three major fundraising events in the next wee while.”
The group’s Givealittle page has so far raised $3000, from 17 donors.
Higginbottom said it was up to the group to remove the financial risk of the hostel from the board’s books.
The board declined to comment on discussions but is expected to resolve outstanding issues before the Save Poto House group’s meeting with parents.
It has previously expressed support for the group’s aims, as long as the final proposal is financially viable.
The hostel is forecast to make a loss of just over $91,000 this year.
The land on which the hostel stands is owned by the Ministry of Education, and the buildings by the board.
There appears to be nothing to stop the trust operating on ministry land – “There are precedents around the country,” Higginbottom said.