School’s five pupil exercise
On a brilliantly fine morning, Linton Country School’s two ‘‘koros’’ sit on a bench outside a classroom laughing and whispering to one another.
The eldest, Cruiz Strickett, turned the ripe old age of seven during the recent school holidays. His schoolmate, Liam Qiokata, won’t turn seven until January 2018.
Last week, the year-2 pupils at the tiny rural school 15 kilometres south of Palmerston North saw the roll increase by 60 per cent.
Not only did the pair find themselves with three new classmates, but the newcomers have completely overturned the school’s gender balance, ending their short reign as the school’s senior, and only pupils.
New principal Katy Marsh has only been in the job for six weeks. She said Hannah, 7, who’s in year 3, Izzy, 5, year 2, and Chloe, 5, year 1, had been on a number of school visits before their parents enrolled them in her care.
‘‘We’re friends,’’ Cruiz said shyly, as the girls came out of class.
Having new schoolmates is ‘‘cool’’, Liam said.
Marsh said the pair have been ‘‘perfect gentlemen’’ in showing the newcomers around the school.
‘‘Yesterday they were all playing together in the sandpit. It was great to watch.’’
At the beginning of the school year, Cruiz had been the only pupil at the 127-year-old school after its year-8 pupils graduated to high school. On the first day of school, he was joined by his year 4, 8-year-old cousin, Indica TaylorCollis, who has since left, due to matters unrelated to the school.
Despite the low roll, along with an electrical fire that destroyed the school kitchen and damaged the school and community hall last year, the board of trustees was adamant about keeping the school viable.
Board members cited the num- ber of families in the vicinity where there are pre-schoolers as a reason for keeping open the doors of New Zealand’s smallest school.
Marsh is rapt about the facilities she has inherited and the support she is receiving.
‘‘I’ve been humbled by the community I work in. It’s a wellresourced school with great playgrounds and plenty of space.’’
It also has drift trikes and unicycles, and a well-equipped music room.
There has been a concerted community effort to keep the playground equipment maintained and the school pool in a swimmable condition.
The first-time principal is looking forward to when it’s warm
‘‘It's a well-resourced school with great playgrounds and plenty of space’’ Linton Country School principal, Katy Marsh
enough for swimming lessons.
‘‘Most school pools at this time of year are either empty or green. But having a school pool is the best learn-to-swim environment, and I am passionate about kids learning how to swim properly. It’s so important.’’
Marsh is also a qualified reading recovery teacher, and, from a rural background herself, wants to introduce animals as part of the teaching programme.
‘‘The community has agreed to support every pupil with a lamb or a calf for lamb and calf week next term ... We’re in the process of building a hen house.’’
The next step is to get the kitchen back, hopefully by the end of term, and the hall restored by the end of the year.
‘‘I’’m very positive about the future of the school. We can offer kids the rural traditions alongside a modern education, and we’re not far from the city. It’s so peaceful, and you really can smell that country air.’’
Marsh’s office looks out over a paddock with two horses and a foal. Horses are another passion. At her home, a lifestyle block near Levin 30 minutes’ drive to the south, she has five. ‘‘I do tend to rescue them.’’ She would like to introduce a programme called Equine Assisted Learning to the school, but says that will be a decision for the community and the board at a later date.
Marsh, who grew up in Hunterville, began her teaching career in Glenfield, Auckland, before coming south to schools on the Kapiti Coast. She arrived at Linton after serving as deputy principal at Foxton Beach School.
‘‘The rural thing gets into your blood. I feel like I’ve come home, really.’’
Two of Linton Country School’s new pupils Izzy, 5, and Hannah, 7, with principal Katy Marsh, and Liam Qiokata, 6.