Tiny school has a big heart
When three children stayed home on Wednesday, Rangitaiki School halved in size.
The country school is located 30 minutes drive east of Taupo¯ . Dairy cows wander its boundary. Pine trees muffle any sounds from the nearby SH5.
The school has six children on its roll this year. It had 18 pupils in 2016, 22 pupils in 2015 and 26 in 2014.
‘‘I asked a Facebook group for rural schools if anyone had a smaller school than us,’’ principal and lead teacher Andrea Haycock said.
‘‘Someone suggested Pitcairn Island might have a smaller school.’’
Turns out it doesn’t - the island school is larger, with 7 students.
Haycock said Rangitaiki School’s small size was due to employment changes at local farms.
‘‘Sometimes, they don’t get a lot of families apply for the jobs.’’
Following ‘‘Gypsy Day’’ on June 1 each year when new dairy farm contracts are signed, the size can change dramatically.
‘‘Often, families come at school holidays and they just arrive at school,’’ Haycock said.
Having a school was crucial for the rural community, Haycock said.
‘‘It’s a selling point for the farms. It has to stay open – that’s what they’ve told us. It would be harder to get families to move out if there was no school.’’
‘‘Rangitaiki School is vital because it’s 30 minutes to the nearest school [in Taupo¯] and some of our kids already travel 30 minutes each morning. So that’d be an hour trip, each way.’’
The school runs on a tight budget.
‘‘We get around $65,000 to run the whole entire school for a year that’s paying for the curriculum materials, the office lady, the cleaner, school trips, power everything,’’ she said.
As 8-year-old Sophie explained, attending a small country school had plenty of benefits.
‘‘We go riding on our bike track outside school and we’ve got a chicken coop, with chickens.
‘‘I think some people might be lonely at a smaller school. But I don’t. I think it’s fun,’’ she said,
Mac (5), who joined an older sister at Rangitaiki School, agreed with her.
‘‘I’m the youngest at this school and I wasn’t scared to come to school. I already knew everyone before I was even at school.’’
Rangitaiki School principal and head teacher Andrea Haycock (left), assisting teacher Jessica Devonport, and pupils Olivia (10), Mac (5) and Sophie (8).