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Celebrations in 2014 at Rangi Ruru

Past, Present and Future - Celebrations in 2014 at Rangi Ruru

This year will see the Rangi Ruru family coming together to mark the school’s 125th anniversary.

Rangi Ruru Girls’ School was founded in 1889 by Miss Helen Gibson, and was administered by her and her sisters for nearly 60 years. The Gibson sisters; Mary, Beatrice, Helen, Alice, Lucy, Ethel, Ruth and Winifred all helped in some way with the running of the school.

In 1890 their father, Captain Frederick Gibson, built a large house with two schoolrooms on the corner of Webb Street in Merivale. This building and the school were gifted the name Rangi Ruru, or ‘wide sky shelter’ by Paora Taki. By the early 1920s the Webb Street house was proving too cramped, and the decision was made to move to larger premises. In August 1923 the remaining four sisters shifted their school, day pupils and eighteen boarders to Te Koraha – a large homestead on the grounds in which Rangi Ruru is still located today.

Hundreds of ‘old girls’ and present students will take part in the anniversary celebrations this year which include the commission of a special piece of music being composed by Philip Norman, a number of social events, and the opening of several new school buildings.

Principal, Julie Moor, says while the school reflects on the rich 125 year old history, Rangi Ruru is also implementing a plan to ensure they have the best educational environment for girl for the next 100 years.

“Project Blue Sky” is the schools vision for the future and includes a full campus redesign. We see the first phase of the project completed from early April when the Science Centre and the Gibson Centre will be officially opened by CERA CEO Roger Sutton. These innovative buildings will have facilities unmatched by other Christchurch schools. The Science Centre includes exciting design elements such as green walls, weather stations and internal displays showing energy use. These aspects which combined with flexible learning spaces and personalised programmes will create the ultimate learning environment for girls.

Rangi Ruru Old Girls’ Association President, Liz Lovell, says women are coming from far and wide to attend the celebrations from around New Zealand and overseas. Mothers and daughters/grandmothers and daughters/sisters and of course good friends.

“They say that school days are the best days of your life and they are. The stories that are shared and the friendships rekindled confirm this and with such a large number of past students coming back to our school, from across the decades, this will be a significant and exciting year for us all,” she says.

One family now has a 5th generation girl at Rangi Ruru. Fiona Ensor (nee Innes) is a former Rangi student and her daughter Sam is currently in Year 7 at the school.

“Although there are a few generations from my side of the family, it’s my husband’s side that had four generations at Rangi before Sam,” she says.

Fiona Ensor says a book was completed for the family a few years ago, only six copies were made. She has a copy but doesn’t know where the other five are.

“It’s wonderful to be able to look back at decades of our family, on both sides, going through Rangi Ruru,” she says. “Times have certainly changed. In my grandmother’s day, women weren’t expected to have a career; they were taught writing, reading, arithmetic and how to correctly address a letter,” she says.

Not only current and former students are involved included in celebrations. A community Open Day in early June will provide visitors with the opportunity to visit Rangi Ruru and see for themselves the contrasts between the beautiful fully restored 1880’s Te Koraha homestead, and the brand new 21st century buildings designed for the increasingly flexible, connected and global learning environment.

Julie Moor says Rangi Ruru is fortunate as a school community to be able to redevelop the campus with the next 100 years in mind, while retaining the rich history that is inextricably linked to the Merivale site and the school as a whole.


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