New Zealand's first ever super school has officially started, but not without concern for the survival of Māori-based education. More than a thousand students and staff were welcomed to Haeata Community Campus, a mainstream school born out of the forced closure of four of Christchurch's eastern schools, one of which holds a strong Māori education legacy.
It's the dawn of a brand new Haeata Community Campus.
Principal Andy Kai Fong says, "Today is very much a community day. It's a day where we open our arms to our tamariki, our whānau and our community supporters. A day where we can all be together and, I guess, celebrate the long road that it's been for a lot of people."
The new school complex cost almost $300m and will house 955 new students as well as 81 new staff, many of whom have relocated from out of town.
Teacher Juanita Asi says, "I'm new to teaching. So, it's amazing for me to be learning new things, things I never learned while I studies at Te Wānanga o Raukawa.”
Situated at the core of the super school is the bilingual unit, Kōmanawa. But with 50 Y1-Y4 students it's already at full capacity, a concern for many within the local community Māori language and culture will be absorbed and lost.
Maōri Administrator Melanie Taite-Pihema says, "Māori culture and our language already existed. Our job is to support and encourage Māori and non-Māori families into Māori education.
There's also a great concern amongst the wider community the legacy of Aranui High School will too be lost. It's one of the four schools forced to close in 2013.
"It's an unfortunate closure of Aranui High School and the other schools. Our sense is that we want to carry on the good work that they did, and I guess set new goals and aspirations for our kids," says Kai Fong.
The school's official opening is not until March, where the Minister of Education is expected to attend.