Christian school eyes secondary expansion

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By Toni Williams

Ashburton Christian School is looking to set up a formal enrolment scheme and expand to include a high school.

If approved the school, which as an area school already offers Year 1 to Year 10, will go through to Year 13 level.

The increase would start from 2021 but be introduced gradually to ensure it was done right to a high standard, said Ashburton Christian School principal Tim Kuipers.

They would look at employing a “head of secondary school” in 2020 with a joint Year 11 and Year 12 class set up the following year.

He said recent community consultation, done for the two separate proposals, had received only favourable response from local schools and members of the school community.

He had received three written responses and quite a bit of verbal feedback – all of it was positive, including support from neighbouring Ashburton College.

“We were never in competition with local high schools, who do a great job, we are just an option for those for whom it may not be working.”

The school has a roll of around 120, with around 20 students in Year 9 and 10.

Under the proposal as a Year 1 to Year 13 school the roll cap was set at 345 and would include one class for each level.

The senior school classrooms would be built in pre-bought land on the west side of the school, alongside the existing middle school buildings.

Mr Kuipers said the figure was part of a 10-year plan.

As the district’s only Christian school, it essentially had a Mid Canterbury wide enrolment zone.

There were similar schools in Christchurch and Timaru but Mr Kuipers said work on the enrolment scheme would set guidelines, and a process to follow, should future enrolment levels look to exceed the school’s capability.

He said there was already a waiting list for “non Christian faith” pupils, which under MOE rules could include up to five per cent of the school roll.

However, Mr Kuipers said there was no current waiting list for Christian pupils.

Under the enrolment scheme, Mid Canterbury’s Christian families would be given first priority then those already within the school, and then those with siblings in the school.

He said the consultation process had closed and was due to be signed off at the next school board meeting before it was submitted to MOE for approval.

It was expected a decision would be known in November.

As Mid Canterbury’s youngest school, it celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and the “graduation” of its first three students to complete Year 1 to Year 10 at the school.

Mr Kuipers said those students had gone on to utilise the other two secondary schools in the district to complete their education.

But often parents took their children out of the district, or moved, to be able to continue their child’s Christian education, which was not ideal for the community.