By Gavin Ogden
There’s a patch of dirt and grass in Golden Sands, Pāpāmoa, that looks like any other field. But by February next year, it will be transformed into the Suzanne Aubert Catholic School.
“Suzanne Aubert Catholic School was thought about over a decade ago,” Ron Scott, Chairman of the Board of Trustees said.
“It was obvious there was going to be a population increase down the coast. A farm was bought some years ago in preparation for this.”
“The population now has exploded and there’s more to come. The council’s thinking about another 25,000 people in that outer part of the city,” he said.
“It’s catchment area if you like, goes as far as Maketū, Te Puke and as far as the Domain Rd area.”
Catering for up to 100 pupils from Years 1 to 6, the project took a major step forward this week with the appointment and blessing of a principal.
“I’ve been following the development of the school for a number of years and I’ve been a leader in Catholic education for a number of years,” Anthony Mills said.
“And the opportunity came up to lead a brand-new Catholic school for the Pāpāmoa community which really excited me.”
The school’s values will align with the beliefs of Suzanne Aubert, who it’s named after.
“Suzanne Aubert was a French nun who came to New Zealand in 1860 and she did a lot of missionary work with those who were poor, homeless, young mums and a lot of work with orphans and children,” Mills said.
Scott said pupils with a connection to the Catholic church would make up the majority of the role. Ninety-five per cent of places will go to “preference families” with a connection to the church.
“That’s important because there are two state schools that are close to the site where we are,” he said.
“We’re not about decimating the education system, we’re about building it up and giving people more choice and opportunity.”
And even a global pandemic couldn’t stop this mission.
“Covid, luckily, happened in the bits where it was all paperwork,” Scott said.
“Otherwise it would have been scary. We were worried for a while there because we didn’t know how long it would go on for.”
But with just eight months left to build the school, the new principal is ready to start hiring teachers. The initial enrolment is expected to be about 100, with the potential to eventually cater for 250 pupils.