School’s five pupil ex­er­cise

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

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.’’

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Two of Lin­ton Coun­try School’s new pupils Izzy, 5, and Han­nah, 7, with prin­ci­pal Katy Marsh, and Liam Qiokata, 6.

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