Controversial plans for a school zone at Marlborough’s only intermediate have stalled as the ministry considers using the site for its co-located college project.
Bohally Intermediate School, in Blenheim, had planned to put enrolment boundaries in place from next year, as pupil numbers were expected to top 500, with the school already short on classroom space.
But the Ministry of Education on Wednesday put zoning plans on hold while it considered where to put the town’s new high school campus.
Marlborough Girls’ College and Marlborough Boys’ College were supposed to be co-located on a greenfield site, but as the ministry struggled to find a suitable block of land, it was looking at squeezing all three schools on the 13.2-hectare McLauchlan St site.
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Bohally Intermediate School principal Shane Campbell said families were disappointed when plans for a school zone was announced at the end of last year.
“We were initially inundated with phone calls from parents wanting to enrol their children up to five years in advance.”
There were seven primary schools in the wider Blenheim area that finished after Year 6 and fed pupils into the lone intermediate, Bohally.
Three primary schools in Blenheim already enrolled Year 7 and 8 pupils; St Mary’s School, Redwoodtown School and Richmond View School, which would also take secondary students from next year.
But the ministry’s regional director of education Derek Lucic said the process of establishing a zone had been put on hold while the ministry considered where to put the co-located colleges.
“The Ministry of Education is currently engaging with Bohally Intermediate as part of the review of the business case for the co-location of Marlborough Girls’ and Boys’ Colleges. An option that is being explored is the involvement of Bohally Intermediate if a greenfield site for the co-located colleges cannot be acquired,” Lucic said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The ministry has agreed to place on hold the establishment of an enrolment scheme for Bohally Intermediate until there is more certainty about the outcome of the co-location work.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins called for a review of the business case for the co-located colleges earlier this year, after the ministry struggled to find a suitable greenfield site as promised in 2015.
Hipkins was expected to take the ministry’s reviewed business case to Cabinet, and make a decision in mid-July. Bohally talks had pushed the deadline out a month.
His office released a briefing the ministry sent him at the end of May, which revealed the principals of both colleges asked the ministry to consider both the Bohally and Girls’ College sites in its reviewed business case.
Several greenfield site options would be outlined in the reviewed business case, as well as the rebuild of the colleges on existing sites, with layout designs drawn up to identify possible “opportunities or compromises”, the briefing said.
If the review found it would take “a number of years” to find a suitable greenfield site, the ministry would reconsider the greenfield option.
Both college sites were owned by iwi, and while it was not necessary to get iwi approval for rebuilds or relocations, the ministry would consult with them anyway, “as a measure of good faith”, the briefing said.
It was possible there would be “some engagement” with school communities to check the preferred options were “more widely supported”, the ministry said.
Campbell confirmed the Bohally school board had met with the ministry, but said he could not say what was discussed at the meetings due to confidentiality agreements.
“When we get a decision, we will know more about the enrolment scheme. The decision may or may not have an impact on the scheme,” Campbell said.
“We will have to make do until the decision is made. Hopefully that is soon. We know the ministry is working really hard on that process.”