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Campaigners Call For A College To Be Built – A Local School For Local Kids

Local campaigners believe that construction of the secondary school at Omokoroa offers the ideal opportunity to provide employment for many individuals and different sectors across the building and administration industries. As well as improving educational outcomes for the sub-district’s students, this will provide a very needed financial boost following the current COVID-19 crisis.

This is one of the Bay’s most-needed shovel-ready projects and despite the looming mass of job losses arising from the crisis of COVID-19, it is yet to be taken off the shelf by the Labour Government. With an election around the corner, the Government is well-placed to pick and choose projects that have the potential to win votes and at the same time improve outcomes for New Zealanders.

As a result of traffic chaos on SH2, secondary students living in the area bounded by Snodgrass Road in the west and Wainui South Road to the east have been spending increasing amounts of time on buses to their nearest school. For students living in Omokoroa, their nearest secondary school is Otumoetai College and, despite being only 17km away, they are spending close to three hours on the school bus each day. With each passing year, this travel time is increasing as more people choose to settle in the Western Bay.

In September 2019, the Ministry of Education released the National Education Growth Plan for the region. In this plan, the Ministry indicated that the likely opening date for a college in Omokoroa was towards the end of this decade. When announcing the purchase of land in Prole Road in November last year, the Minister of Education reinforced this timeline. In subsequent responses to the letters written to the Minister by members of the community, Mr. Hipkins stated that the number of students is not sufficient to build the school yet.

The campaigners for a new secondary school, believe that the Ministry have old and outdated figures that don’t align with current and near future building and population growth. In a report provided by the Ministry of Education to the Education and Workforce Select Committee in May 2019, the Ministry predicted that local primary would have a combined roll of 1,193 by the end of 2021. At the time the Ministry was presenting this information to the Government, the combined primary school roll was already in excess of the Ministry’s prediction (this was two years ago). The Ministry was committed to their roll estimates, but their data was already out of date.

Another key reason for the Ministry delaying the construction of a college is a misguided estimate of the number of students that will choose single-sex schooling. At present, 26% of students attend Tauranga Girls or Tauranga Boys Colleges. Right now, whether a family chooses single sex or a co-ed college for their child the travel time is the same, which makes each option equally attractive. The campaigners believe that when considering a school that’s an hour and half away on a bus with a change over at Bethlehem for some and with standing room only for others, the majority of families will choose a closer option.

The most disappointing aspect of the failure to bring forward the construction of a new school is the continued disregard for the detrimental effect on student wellbeing. At present, bus loads of students are forced to spend over two and a half hours on the bus each day. As traffic delays increase, that will add up to almost 3,000 of wasted hours over the course of a secondary school education. The campaigners say “that’s too much time; every year that the Government delays building the college is another group of students who are forced to waste 3,000 hours of their teen years on a school bus. Enough is enough”.

A meeting will be held for all those interested in this important issue on Monday the 5th of October. For more information, please visit https://omokoroa.net/college/ or the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/newschoolforlocalkids

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