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Poto house stays open

Poto College House Trust trustees Richard Sandall, Chrissina Loader, and chairman Mike Higinbottom celebrate the reopening of Poto House. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Trust focusing on future enrolments

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It’s official – Poto House is back up and running.

And its new trustees are hoping continuing community support can keep the hostel going strong for at least another 94 years.

In May this year, boarders got the news that Wairarapa College’s Poto House would be closing.

By June, a community-led ‘Save Poto House’ committee was set up to keep the hostel open.

The lease to the Poto House grounds, which was signed off by the Ministry of Education on Wednesday, brought to a close two months of negotiations between the trust, the ministry, and the Wairarapa College Board.

Trustees of the specially formed Poto College House Trust Richard Sandall, Sharon Parker, Chrissina Loader, and chairman Mike Higinbottom said the hostel was taking enrolments and already had a “healthy number” of Year Nines and two new international students.

At this stage, the boarding house will be opening its doors with about 50 enrolments, but the board’s target over the next three to four years is to get 70 students enrolled.

Trustee Chrissina Loader said faith from families and past and current students had buoyed the trust along the process and kept them going.

“We’ve had huge support from the community.

“Poto House is an institution in Wairarapa – in the best sense of the word, it’s a traditional part of Wairarapa – the college wouldn’t be the same without the hostel kids.

Hostel students had previously had a “strong sense of whanau” which was important for students coming from small rural schools.

“I think we’re passionate about giving our children the opportunity to board.

“This is the only co-ed boarding school on the east coast and that makes it unique geographically for a start and that’s why it’d be such a shame to lose it.”

The hostel is offering 5-1/2 day placements for $12,500 a year – which is in line with what similar public-school hostels are offering.

There are also opportunities for casual boarders – for example students who play sport can stay at the hostel on practice nights, so parents don’t have to ferry them to and from practice.

Students whose parents are going overseas and need accommodation can also stay at the hostel.

Higinbottom said the trust had raised about $45,000 from donations and fundraisers but wanted the community to know that raising funds to keep the hostel open would be an ongoing affair.

“Thanks for the support we’ve had so far, but we’ve still got a mountain to climb – we’re open for the next 50 years but we still need support.”

The trust also planned to make changes in the kitchen and would employ a chef who would provide meals for the students and offer catering from the hostel’s commercial kitchen.

“We’re open for business I suppose – we want to provide nutritious wholesome meals to organisations in the community, frozen or fresh.”

The hostel’s new manager, who is yet to be announced, will also help to carry on the hostel’s strong sporting and academic culture as well as give the students a sense of pride in Poto House.

In the meantime, the trust is focused on getting enrolments and had staff “waiting in the wings”.

The trust is also planning a community working bee for January 8 and is asking people to come along from 10am to Poto House to tidy up gardens and hedges around the place.

People looking to donate, help out Poto House, or take part in the working bee can contact Higinbottom on 06 372 6860.

People looking to enrol can do so at www.potocollegehouse.co.nz

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