by Peter Owens
Although overall roll numbers at Dunedin’s nine Catholic primary schools have fallen only a little, from 795 to 756 in the past decade, the rolls at St Joseph’s School in Port Chalmers
and St Mary’s School in Kaikorai have more than halved. St Joseph’s roll dropped from 42 in 2012 to 19 this year, and the St Mary’s roll dropped from 47 in 2007 to 21 this year.
Diocese general manager Gerard Scanlan said the diocese would consider the future of the two schools, which could potentially lead to their closure.
“The configuration of our schools, historically, was aligned to where our parishes were situated, which has meant that we tended to have reasonably small schools in suburban areas,” he said.
Mr Scanlan said that in New Zealand, people’s preferences about where they live had changed. Parish sizes in some areas had declined and that had forced the diocese to amalgamate some parishes. He said the same situation prevails with regard to some Catholic primary schools.
Mr Scanlan said that with respect to the Port Chalmers and Kaikorai schools, there will need to be consultation with all who are affected by any possible change.
He admitted that closure is one option, but there are others, including the trinity model, which the diocese has successfully used in Southland.
There, three Catholic schools — in Bluff, Nightcaps and Invercargill — have been joined together but have operated with a single board and principal, yet continued to function on separate sites.
That model had not only been successful, but the rolls at both Bluff and Nightcaps had increased.
Mr Scanlan said the diocese would prefer not to close schools if at all possible, “but the reality of any situation must be faced”.