Orewa College is just a short walk away, but will be beyond reach for Red Beach families like these if a proposed zone change goes ahead. Vocal opponents of the zone change include, from left, Janet Sweetman, Simon Henderson and Katie Smart with their children, from left, Bryn and Jesse Sweetman, Isabella and Charlotte Henderson and Holly Smart.
You can see Orewa College from the deck of the Smart family, who live in Red Beach. However, if a proposal to shrink the college’s enrolment zone goes ahead, Holly (6) and Jake Smart, aged 4, will be among a large number of children from Red Beach who will not be able to attend the college that is walking distance from their home.
The re-zoning proposal excludes two traditional feeder areas, Red Beach and Waitoki. It was instigated by the college, which is looking nervously over its shoulder at the growth within its zone in Millwater and Orewa. It took the first public steps towards reducing the size of its zone last week – the process includes consultation with the community.
The Smart family moved to Red Beach 18 months ago and Katie Smart says one reason was to give her children the type of childhood where you can walk or cycle around the neighbourhood – including to and from school.
“Spending a lot of time driving along Whangaparaoa Road to and from school certainly didn’t figure in our plans,” Katie says.
The family is among those who will speak up in opposition to Orewa College’s plan to shrink its zone. None of the families spoken to by Hibiscus Matters have any problem with Whangaparaoa College as an alternative but simply want to be able to attend Orewa because it’s right on their doorstep.
Red Beach residents the Henderson family say they are part of the Orewa community. Simon Henderson says their concerns include that the proposed zone would remove the opportunity for their children to safely walk or cycle a short distance to school. He points out that the Ministry of Education’s guidelines say that every State school must, as far as possible, ensure that it does not exclude local students.
Simon says instead of a zone restructure, effort should be focused on advocating for another secondary school to be built. “I would like to see the community involved in the discussion of alternatives to the current proposed map. Perhaps other areas of the enrolment zone could be removed to avoid Red Beach students from being excluded. This would also provide environmental gains in removing traffic from roads.”
With a roll of 2000 students, Orewa College principal Kate Shevland says the school is at capacity and has done everything it can do to manage growth, starting with getting tough on out-of-zone enrolments, five years ago, as well as reducing the number of international students. “All the major residential development is in this part of the Coast,” she says.
She says two Year 8 classes currently have to be taken in the library, so classroom space is tight – but it is not the only issue.
“Some people think the problem would be solved by building a few more classrooms, but that’s only part of the picture,” she says. “Our infrastructure – the car parks, gyms, staffroom and administration spaces are full.”
The college currently takes in 50-60 Year 7 students from Red Beach School every year. Under the proposal, the new boundary on that side would be at the southern bridge over Orewa Estuary. Any out-of-zone spaces would be allocated first to siblings of current students.
Red Beach School board of trustees chair, Andrew Short, says the school has a number of concerns around the breaking of a longstanding pathway for its students to Orewa College. He says the school’s submission will also include issues such as safety for students travelling along Whangaparaoa Road.
“We would like to make sure the college is not penalising existing communities to make way for new residents,” he says. “There is also the possibility that this will affect our school as people may move to within the new Orewa zone.”
Whangaparaoa College currently takes in around 15 students per year from Red Beach School. Principal James Thomas says that the college has the capacity to increase its Year 7 intake and that the Ministry will also consider the amount of land the college has for its future building needs. Whangaparaoa College has just over 1400 domestic students, with the capacity for 1696.
“We are not considering changing our zone, which takes in the whole peninsula with the western boundary finishing at Hibiscus Coast Highway,” he says.
The next opportunity to view the proposed Orewa College zone maps and have questions answered is on Wednesday, June 20 at the Orewa College Arts & Events Centre, 3pm-6pm. Written feedback can be made to the college’s board of trustees by emailing Board@orewacollege.nz. Or visit www.orewacollege.nz. Once feedback has closed, on July 5, the Ministry of Education will make its decision. The proposal is for the changes to come into effect with next year’s intake.
Waitoki brings in a zone
Waitoki School students would also have to find an alternative college under the proposed Orewa College re-zoning. However, principal Chris Neison says only around 15-20 families will be affected. He says half their school leavers currently go to Orewa and half to Kaipara College. If the rezoning goes ahead he says it will be a matter of families, who he admits are upset, getting their heads around the shift to Kaipara College.
He says Waitoki School understands the pressures on Orewa College and is itself in the early stages of putting a zone in place.
“We need to do this because the Ministry has been too slow at putting in the infrastructure needed,” he says. “Waitoki School is 128 percent full and our library is now a classroom – we have to act.”