Primary school for Aotea?
The drums are beating for a primary school to be built in Aotea, but the principal of nearby Papakowhai School has sounded a warning.
Rodney Strong, chairman of Aotea Residents Association, met Ministry of Education officials last week to discuss the issue.
Aotea is one of the fastest growing suburbs in Porirua and most of it is zoned Papakowhai School. Strong said having a primary school in Aotea would cut down travelling times and create a stronger sense of community.
He conceded getting the school built could be a long process.
‘‘Aotea’s going to continue to grow and there is that desire that kids on the same street go to the same school,’’ he said.
‘‘It helps build relationships and the community becomes stronger because of it.
‘‘At the moment, you can get a scenario of five kids living next door to each another, but going to different schools. We want to walk our kids to class.’’
Papakowhai School principal Mark Smith said the issue was complicated.
He said there was breathing room to discuss the issue with all parties because a new school was to be years away.
His school has a roll of 350 and could manage another 200.
‘‘If they build a school in Aotea, then the pressure would come off us, certainly,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s about finding that balance, because we don’t want a roll of 700. Then again you don’t want one of 150 and having to start laying off staff.
‘‘People who are alarmist about the size of our school don’t have kids who go here.’’
Smith said his school had been in talks with the Ministry of Education over likely roll increases and population growth in their zone.
There was also capacity in nearby schools, he said.
‘‘The Ministry should be looking at the network as a whole in Porirua.
‘‘To spend millions on a new school when there is room elsewhere is a hard ask.’’
Minister of Education Hekia Parata said burgeoning suburbs and shifting populations were two important factors when deciding whether to build a new school.
‘‘The Ministry of Education continues to monitor the Aotea area and the schools that already service the area, and will take into account the 2013 Census information to inform any future planning,’’ she said.