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No pupils, no principal – what next?

Tuturumuri school. PHOTO/FILE

BECKIE WILSON

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Tuturumuri School, a rural school with no pupils, has been dealt another blow – it no longer has a principal.

The Ministry of Education yesterday confirmed the school was without a principal, had no enrolments confirmed for this year, but remained open.

The isolated South Wairarapa school, south of Martinborough, faced an uncertain future at the end of last year after its final three pupils left.

At the start of 2017, there were nine pupils but numbers dropped after the bus route was cut.

In November, Mike Firth, the then board of trustees’ chairman, said the board had decided to keep the school open in the hopes of new enrolments.

Money remaining from school fundraising would keep the school open for two more terms, he said.

Mr Firth recently stood down and Jocelyn Busby was appointed as new acting chair.

She was not available for comment.

Last year, Mr Firth admitted the board and community were running out of ways to attract people to the isolated area.

There was a glimmer of hope in December last year with word of two new enrolments for 2018, but these had apparently fallen through.

The school has iPads, an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, and organic vegetable gardens.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Katrina Casey said the ministry was working closely with the school’s board of trustees about the future options.

If the school received enrolments, a temporary principal would be employed, she said.

South Wairarapa Deputy Mayor Brian Jephson said the decision to keep the school open was a wise one made by the close-knit rural community.

“The locals out there had raised money for the school, and apparently have enough money to keep the school open with the hope, and wish, that there might be pupils coming along,” Mr Jephson said.

This money had been raised in the district for the school.

“The best use for that money is to try and keep the facility open, with the hope that families are going to come along and bring kids.”

There are some farms for sale in the area which raised the possibility of young families coming to the area, he said.

“I applaud their [the board’s] decision, you know, because they are doing it for the right reasons.”

Mr Jephson said it would be hard for ex-pupils and families to see the school go, if the decision was made to close it down.

New Zealand Principals’ Federation national president Whetu Cormick said the lack of pupils was unfortunate for the community.

“Rural education and rural schools have some unique challenges, one of them being enrolments of course,” Mr Cormick said.

A school’s funding was determined by the roll size, and when that slowly decreased, it brought challenges for the principal and staff, he said.

“Often rural schools have a long history in the community — they are the heartbeat of it.”

Tuturumuri School opened in 1923 with a roll of six and was closed in 1947 due to a lack of pupils, but re-opened a few months later.

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