By Pam Ferla.
Cyclone Hale and Cyclone Gabrielle’s destruction of Coromandel roads has turned college students’ routines upside-down, but school officials and parents have worked together and come up with solutions. Students at Thames High School, Hauraki Plains College and Whangamata Area School have all been impacted. Due to its location, attendance at Mercury Bay Area School is not affected.
Principal of Thames High School, Michael Hart, says the weather events and their effect on roads have had a significant effect on some students.
"It’s been a real challenge for our young people and their families. I am impressed by their resilience and adaptability, and appreciate their commitment to their schooling.
Closure of 25A has directly affected the Tairua to Thames Ministry of Education provided minibus, which was due to carry eight students in 2023. Of those, three were on the west side of the slip / road damage and they can make it to school relatively easily. Of the other five, one is Year 11 this year and his family decided to send him to Whangamata Area School, after his two years at THS. Of the remaining four, three are Year 13 and one Year 12. Two stay in Thames with friends or other family, making the long journey via Waihi two to three times a week. The other two have now moved to rental accommodation, with their parents. This means that, after some initial online learning, all our students are able to make it to school.”
It is to be seen how the winter weather will affect the coast road, and therefore have an impact on school transport. We hope for the best.”
Mr Hart does not believe new enrolments have been affected. He said the Ministry of Education has indicated that in the future, the route will be disestablished and the ministry bus route will be only to Whangamata. “Consequently the service on offer is a legacy route. This is not related to the road issue, but offers some context.”
Satellite classes at Tairua Fire Brigade, two hour daily commute, and boarding at Miranda Hauraki Plains College Principal, Sharon Moller, says the college has 27 impacted by the closure of SH25A
“Thankfully, the Tairua Bus Company has been able to change their route to go through Waihi, which a number of students and families have opted for. This is a more than two-hour commute to school each day and plenty of time for homework on the bus! Approximately 15 students are largely working online, and we have the satellite class on Fridays where a staff member meets and teaches these students in Tairua at the Fire Station. Several students, mostly seniors, have secured accommodation in Ngatea. It has been heart-warming to see the community on this side of the hill offering up boarding arrangements to those affected. The school will review its approach at the end of Term One, to check things are still working best for students.”
Friday classes at Tairua Fire Brigade building is a novelty that allows more days at their Tairua home for those boarding. Teacher and Year 11 Dean at Hauraki Plains College, Jenny Tawa, oversees this class. “Having Fridays in Tairua works really well,” she says. “When SH25A closed, we looked at what we could do and Tairua’s Fire Brigade offered their premises and use of their internet.”
Jo and Daniel Coates of Miranda put their hands up to host Hauraki Plains College students, so their son Orson had company after his sisters left for university. The family run a dry-stock farm at Miranda and they host Kaia van Doorm (15) and her brother Max (13) from Tairua, as well as a friend of Kaia’s.
“It’s early days but so far it seems to be working for the kids,” says Jo. “It brings opportunities for them to do some new activities here. Across the road there are a couple of their school friends, so we have a bunch of children and it’s nice. They get on the school bus at the farm gate, which is a new experience, and as the bus in Tairua ended up leaving at 6.30am, they now get a lie-in!” Jo says some of the older children go to Youth Search and Rescue training in Ngatea, and they love it. Hauraki Plains Principal and Steve Mosen at Tairua Bus Company have been very good in their support with this changing situation.”
Kaia recently celebrated her birthday at her hosts’ home and was delighted that a couple of her school friends surprised her by turning up at the farm for a 7am birthday breakfast. “I like boarding here because when you are staying at someone else’s house, there are less distractions than when at home. This means I get my homework done! But when I go home at weekends, that feels special.” For 13-year-old Max, it is an unusual start for his first year at college. “I’ve made new friends and I’m having new experiences and I do some fun stuff at the farm.” Emily O’Neill is another Hauraki Plains College student living in Tairua who boards during the week. She drives to Ngatea about 6.30 am on Monday mornings for the school week. Seventeen-year-old Stevie Keyte of Tairua, who is in her final college year, also boards during the week, as well as Zoe Winter.
Caption: Boarding away from home has brought new experiences for Hauraki Plains College students (from left) Kaia van Doorm, Max van Doorm and Zoe Winter of Tairua.