Wairoa Catholic school opens doors for cyclone-hit state school

16 Nuhaka

More than 80 additional pupils are being accommodated by St Joseph’s School in Wairoa in Northern Hawkes Bay as the region tries to recover after Cyclone Gabrielle.

St Joseph’s, with a role of 75, was approached by Nuhaka School, which is about 30km north of Wairoa, after the small settlement suffered loss of essential services, and wastewater and sewage systems were compromised, Palmerston North diocese general manager Liam Greer told NZ Catholic.

“Nuhaka approached our school as they needed a solution, [and] the [Ministry of Education] were not keen to house the pupils in a ‘non-school’ facility,” Mr Greer said.

St Joseph’s principal Jo Doyle called Mr Greer and asked if the diocese would agree in principle, which it did.

Mr Greer told NZ Catholic that there are effectively two schools running in parallel on the St Joseph’s site.

St Joseph’s “had emptied or planned to empty classrooms for a building project which recently got building consent. Serendipitously this allowed the immediate accommodation required for the Nuhaka pupils, coupled with using the school hall and library and other rooms as/where required”.

Mr Greer described the arrangement as essentially “a school inside a school”. It is “business as usual” for St Joseph’s.

For the Nuhaka pupils, their normal routine is “reversed” as pupils bus from Nuhaka into town, and back again.

The staff and students from Nuhaka School were welcomed in a powhiri on March 6. A facebook post from Nuhaka School on March 8 expressed their gratitude.

“We experienced a heart-warming and very special powhiri, followed by the last three days of building new friendships and settling into our learning spaces,” the post stated.

“Yesterday and today furniture arrived from our local schools and college to help fill up our little classrooms. Our beautiful tamariki and staff have been so warmly welcomed and supported by the team at St Joseph’s and the support of our Wairoa community.

“Special thanks also to Putere School for a huge gift box of stationery, art gear and books, and to Take Note for dropping off a lovely donation of exercise books and stationery.”

Mr Greer said that St Joseph’s will continue to host Nuhaka School for this term “initially”, and this will be “reviewed with the Ministry before commencement of new term”.

Mr Greer added that he had met Nuhaka School principal Raelene McFarlene. Mr Greer said that she was “overwhelmed with the support offered, the powhiri and the way St Josephs has welcomed their community to the campus”.

St Joseph’s has helped the community recovery in Wairoa in several ways, including allowing its ground to be a temporary helicopter landing pad.

St Peter’s parish in Wairoa also helped by ensuring that the “lunch in schools” programme continued by allowing the use of their hall for this. This was being done in the school.

Photo: Nuhaka School facebook.

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Michael Otto

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