Excitement is building in Pyes Pa and The Lakes as the community gets set to welcome a new primary school in February.
While the buildings of Taumata School are starting to take shape on a five-hectare site on Kennedy Road, foundation principal Gen Fuller and her teaching team are gearing up to welcome its first pupils.
Enrolments have opened for the school, which will cater for Years 1-6 next year, followed by Year 7 in 2020 and Year 8 in 2021. The ‘build roll’ is 400 with room to expand up to 650 in the future.
The new $18 million school will include a hall, library, technology suite and special needs learning space, as well as three ‘learning studios’, each containing four ‘hubs’ and designed to cater for up to 150 students each.
“We have a talented and committed establishment board that has worked closely with the Ministry of Education and Southbase Construction to ensure we have a building design that fits what we know teaching and learning may need to look like for the future,” says Gen.
Modern, open learning environments provide the ability for students to work at a variety of levels.
“It’s about having access to more than one teacher,” adds Gen. “Research says education is about being social, and when you’ve got one teacher in one classroom it’s a lot more limiting.
“The design of the learning studios is based around that agile, flexible and open learning model.”
It won’t be all open spaces, however.
“The beauty of this design is there’s lots of internal break-out spaces and opportunities for spaces that are small and intimate for peer or small group work, as well as the larger spaces for presenting information or whole group work.”
Gen says the The Lakes/Pyes Pa community is excited about the school opening, with good attendance at the four community consultation evenings that have been held so far during the building phase.
A further two information sessions will be held on September 18-19.
“Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty stuff of teaching and learning and answering questions such as ‘how many children will be in that space with the teacher?’, ‘will my child have one teacher they will build a relationship with?’. These are the crucial things parents want to know.”
The school is sited on a former kiwifruit and avocado orchard. Some of the avocado trees, as well as a grove of macadamia trees, have been retained for the purpose of ‘experiential learning’ and there is also a stormwater pond on site that could also be linked to learning in future.
“Research tells us that learning needs to be emotional, relevant and linked to real life,” says Gen. “We want to look at ways to use our environment to really add those factors into learning.”
The unexpected discovery of some historic kumara pits resulted in an eight-week delay in building the school earlier in the year, however Gen hopes some of the artefacts discovered by Heritage New Zealand will find their way back to the school and form part of its ‘narrative’.
“We want to capture the historical significance and history of the area as we go.”
The name ‘Taumata’ was chosen both to acknowledge an ancestor of local hapu Ngai Tamarawaho and for its meaning – ‘to reach the pinnacle’.
“Each of our learners will have their own pinnacle, and it’s about reaching the top of your own pinnacle,” says Gen.
Gen, two deputy principals and six new teachers will sit down next month to build and design the school’s curriculum.
She has also been meeting some of the school’s future students. “That’s been absolutely amazing, because we have met with these little people who are really excited about coming to the new school.”
Gen, a former deputy principal at Papamoa Primary School, says being the foundation principal of a new school is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
“I feel really privileged to be the foundation principal of something unique like this.”