Tiny school has a big heart

Taupo Times - - ’S HOLIDAY CATS ARE GOING WILD FEATURES A PASSION - ROBERT STEVEN

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.’’

ROBERT STEVEN/STUFF

Ran­gi­taiki School prin­ci­pal and head teacher An­drea Hay­cock (left), as­sist­ing teacher Jes­sica Devon­port, and pupils Olivia (10), Mac (5) and So­phie (8).

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