After 130 years of service, Cheltenham School has closed its gates.
The Manawatu country school was founded in 1886, but its roll had dwindled in recent years, with just eight pupils and three staff in 2016.
The decision to close it was announced by the Ministry of Education in July, at the request of the school’s Board of Trustees.
Principal Louise Ilton had previously said population data showed the roll was unlikely to grow, which had led to the request.
Ex-pupils and teachers, and friends and family, joined the school’s celebration of its 130 years on Saturday, and reminisced over their fondest memories.
Hayden Parish, a pupil 20 years ago, said the school was ‘‘awesome’’ and such a large part of a small rural community.
Parish and his three brothers all went to the school.
During Albert Dodunski’s time as the principal, between 1981 and 1994, some years there were 76 pupils were enrolled at the school, he said.
He said many families had strong links to the school and it was sad to see it close.
‘‘It’s rural education that you can’t get anywhere else,’’ Dodunski said.
‘‘It’s going to be really hard for those who have a history with Cheltenham. This is home to them.’’
One of Dodunski’s pupils, Delwyn Thompson, said swimming and school camps at Mangatepopo were some of her favourite memories.
Ilton said running a small school had its challenges, but it was an enjoyable four years.
‘‘We put our own flavour on it,’’ she said.
The gathering was a chance to mix and mingle in a casual environment and say goodbye, Ilton said.
‘‘These people put so much time into the school.’’
Because of the closure, Ilton would now be working at Apiti school.
The school’s remaining pupils would disperse to different schools, including Feilding Intermediate and Hunterville School.
Ex-students (left to right) Cameron Parish, Scott Parish and Hayden Parish at Cheltenham school’s closing.