A Totara tree was planted by long-time resident Ian Hunter and Tuturumuri’s youngest pupil, five-year-old Nutrisse Bragger. PHOTOS/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

Ninety-seven years of education came to an end on Sunday at the Tuturumuri School send-off, where dozens of families gathered to remember the school.

After years of the school board fighting to stay open, principal Alistair Morrison said it was a bittersweet moment.

Morrison came to the school last year looking for a challenge, hoping to turn the boat around and prevent the school from being closed.

Tuturumuri principal Alistair Morrison.

He said there had been a “resigned acceptance” when the Education Ministry informed the school in early November that it was initiating the closure.

The small, rural school 30 minutes from Martinborough began the year with seven pupils but was now down to just two.

“It’s been lovely seeing the kids playing together today, but it really highlights what’s been missing,” Morrison said.

The two pupils have begun integrating at Featherston School, attending some classes there during the week.

A former pupil writing to Morrison had described the school as the Tuturumuri community’s “oldest resident”.

“What’s stood out the most to me is the amazing education a rural setting provides and the memories that have been made here,” Morrison said.

There was plenty of reminiscing done on Sunday when close to 150 people turned out to celebrate the school’s contribution to the community, including former teachers, past pupils, parents and residents.

Former principal Peter Whimms, who was based at the school from 1972 to 1977, said it was a sign of the times.

“It’s just a statement about what’s happening in rural and farming communities,” he said.

“One of the biggest stations here has just been bought and will be put into forestry.”

The school had a roll of more than 50 pupils in his day, he said.

He fondly recalled those early days and the strength of the community.

“You are more than the principal,” he said, remembering being asked to babysit for families when they went to do their weekly town shop.

“I came out here as a cocky 22-year-old. Now I’m being introduced to the 17-18-year-old children of the people I used to teach.”

Long-time resident Ian Hunter said it was a “terrible shame” the school had closed but praised Morrison and the board for their handling of it.

A Totara tree was planted on the school grounds in commemoration.

Another was planted at the Tuturumuri Hall and a third at Considine Park in Martinborough.