Troubled Hato Petera College opened its doors today for the New Year but uncertainty still looms about whether or not it can accommodate boarders, with it being reclassified as a non-boarding school.
All Hato Petera pupils are expected to return by next week, but the challenge still facing the college is sourcing boarding facilities for its students.
Hato Petera Principal John Matthews says "we had potentially 89 students [but] because of no accommodation and the latest barrier being no funding we've got 25 confirmed students returning and another dozen or so yet to confirm.
The Catholic Diocese of Auckland reclassified the school as non-boarding late last year, meaning the Māori boarding school no longer meets criteria to be funded under The Ministry of Education (MOE). The school then sought $200,000 from MOE to build temporary accommodation at nearby Awataha marae.
"We needed the buildings themselves so we put forward the plans to the Ministry of Education who declined that proposal mainly through funding streams, well that was my understanding,” Matthews says.
The school is in discussions with a number of Marae for boarding options, but Matthews says since the school was reclassified families are now locked out of accessing essential boarding funds.
"All those bursaries, boarding allowances Te Puawaitanga Scholarships that our students had been accustomed to; when that funding was withdrawn our whanau who were fully funded, say $15,000, they needed to come up with some sort of money.
The college has applied to iwi authorities for assistance and MOE again for private boarding funds.
Matthews says “they [students] are entitled to private boarding, which is very very small, and I guess we would be asking the community out there and whanau if they could continue to support the college by sponsoring children. So at the moment we have 25 students that would require basically $5000 to continue to attend," Matthews says.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Church says the students' safety and care is priority and as well as being financially viable a boarding facility would “need to be properly administered and run by competent supervisors to provide a caring and truly Catholic environment”.
MOE says it is working with the college to determine the level of additional assistance it now needs to manage and respond to challenges.
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