Year 8 students from Otautau and Dipton School may have to look at other high school options as the Ministry of Education looks to enforce an enrolment zone at Central Southland College (CSC) that would exclude them.
The Ministry of Education has requested that the CSC board of trustees implement an enrolment scheme in accordance with section 11H of the Education Act 1989, to avoid overcrowding at the school. School staff and parents are upset that in the proposed scheme drafted by the Ministry, Otautau and Dipton schools have been excluded from the potential enrolment zone, ignoring a longstanding history both have with CSC.
Currently enrolled students will remain at the college and those living inside the zone will have automatic rights to enrol, but those living outside the zone will only be able to enrol if there are places available in their year group.
CSC principal Grant Dick said the Ministry told him they were at capacity and needed to enforce a zone to manage the numbers. This meant that should students living in the zone choose to attend CSC they would be accommodated over others outside the zone.
"We don't have a choice about it, we have to go through this process... they know we don't agree with them but we understand their position."
The board had submitted its own enrolment zone which included Otautau and Dipton, but received a proposed scheme that excluded both, he said.
CSC was originally intended to be built at Otautau but was instead located at Winton. At the time an agreement was formed that students from Otautau would always be able to attend CSC. Mr Dick said during their correspondence they tried to state a case based on these historical grounds.
"Right now we're in a consultation phase asking people to make submissions. We're encouraging anybody to make submissions."
Submissions will be collated into a proposal to the Ministry and close at 4pm on Friday, May 25.
A public meeting about the issue was held at Winton on May 16 and Otautau on Monday night (May 21), with one scheduled to be held in Dipton on Thursday (May 24).
Otautau School Board of Trustees chairwoman Ginny Cowie said excluding Otautau ignored the long history between the two schools.
"It's the whole historical thing... it said we'd always go to Winton. It's going to be a real split in our community."
"CSC are doing as much as they can... The (Otautau) board will put submissions in for it, it's good to know the CSC board has got the best interest of everyone," she said.
Otautau School principal Simon Bell said Mr Dick was great at keeping them in the loop but felt the proposed scheme would split the school community.
"We normally have 85% to 90% (of Year 8s) go to CSC."
"It's a generational thing, parents have gone there, grandparents have gone there. To have it ripped out of the community is going to be a big shock."
Mr Dick said parents should "still enrol as per normal".
"We will be collecting our numbers, I will keep primary principals in the loop with our progress."
Ministry of Education deputy secretary for sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said an enrolment scheme for CSC would assist the board in managing its roll, the risk of overcrowding, and ensure a fair and transparent process for enrolment was in place.
"We know there are schools in the wider area that have space to enrol students, and we need to make best use of the existing space within this network of schools."
Ms Casey said there were closer secondary school options that families living in Otautau and Dipton areas would have guaranteed access to "which is why these towns are not currently included in the draft home zone".
Any decisions made about enrolment schemes needed to reflect the best interest for the future of the overall schooling network, she said.
"Once consultation has been completed, and the board submits its enrolment scheme for approval, the Ministry must balance the community's expectations of access to any particular school with the impact that the zone may have on neighbouring schools and the education network as a whole. The decision made by the Ministry will also take into account the views of Central Southland College and all relevant information and data."
The proposed Central Southland College enrolment scheme put forward by the Ministry of Education outlined in pink.