Principal of Wānaka’s super shiny and brand spanking new school Te Kura O Take Kārara, Jodie Howard is champing at the bit to get going on the 2020 academic year. “I’m very excited!” she said. “I’m ready. I can’t wait for the kids to arrive and the families to arrive. We can’t wait to get the heart of the school beating.”
Howard is standing amongst a very large pile of very heavy boxes; an entire library needs unpacking, labelling, sorting and stacking. To get that sorted, she is appealing to parents and community members who love books to come along next week and be part of a working bee to get the library set up.
“Anybody who wants to help and is keen to set up the library is welcome. This is the biggest task. It worked really well with furniture being delivered… Then on Monday all the teachers arrived on site and then all the bulk resources and equipment arrived yesterday.” In each block all the desks, shelves, tables, equipment and learning resources are set up and currently the sports shed and music equipment are all finding their new homes. But the library is a big job and needs sorting before 9am on February 3.
The school roll is currently sitting at 84. “Obviously our year 5-6 is small. We’ve got about 12 children in that group and one teacher for those 12 kids,” said Howard.
“Some parents have decided that small is good which is why they’ve chosen to enrol here. It’s not going to be like this forever but for parents who want their kids to have a really small class with one teacher for 12 students, then enrolling here is ideal,” she said.
Te Kura O Take Kārara has 12 teaching staff including Principal Howard and deputies, Darryl Gellatly and Lisa Bailey. “Then we have nine teaching staff for 84 students. Our teaching staff are in teams of three: three for Years 0-2, three for Years 3-4 and three for Years 5-6.
“We know we’ve got capacity for numbers to grow and we’ve got the staff to manage that. Then we’ve got Hannah Faed our office manager. And we’ve employed Tammy Clegg the librarian/barista also.”
Barista? Yes. A swanky new espresso machine will be operating every morning from the school library for parents on the school run – a great way to meet and mingle and establish community.
All the staff are excited and speak repeatedly of the honour they have, and their gratitude for being part of the foundation year. The Ministry of Education has resourced them well and given them time to create an environment and culture they can call their own.
“The ministry has been amazing,” said Howard. “Not only myself working all of last year, then Darryl and Lisa from term 3, but having all of term 4 with all the teachers getting all our resourcing done. And we have enough staff to deal with growth if it happens quickly. So we’ve been very fortunate.”
Whilst there may be a small roll, the school will hit the ground running, literally, with sport. “We will be doing sport under the Upper Clutha cluster with Central Otago Sports Association, so we are making plans for athletics, cross country and swimming. And we will be doing Challenge Wānaka. And we’ve been working with the ski fields and it looks like we might get Wednesdays for school skiing. So a lot of what they have at other schools, it will look the same here.”
However with only 12 students in the senior school, it would require 100 percent of the Year 5-6 girls to make a netball team — a perfect excuse for boys to take up the sport.
“Maybe other schools might need us to fill their numbers, or some might be willing to lend players to our team?”
With the countdown on until opening day, the buzz is palpable and there is a tangible excited frisson in the air. “I’m very excited! I’m ready. I can’t wait for the kids to arrive and the families to arrive!”
On Monday February 3 Bubba Thompson from Ngai Tahu will be at the school for an opening blessing of the buildings, a formal welcome followed by kai…”all our children and families will feel very important that they are foundation pupils,” said Howard.