Oldest living pupil back at Linwood North

SPECIAL: Head boy Priyanshu Dalai, youngest boy Samuel Cave, head girl Tayah Ngaha and youngest girl Olivia Houben helps 100-year-old past pupil June Hayes cut a cake.

It was a trip down memory lane for 100-year-old June Hayes, who attended a special ceremony to recognise Linwood North School’s long journey to be rebuilt.

The ceremony was held on Friday to celebrate the opening of the school’s new hall, administration and three classroom blocks.

The new facilities were officially opened by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and was also attended by her husband Sir David Gascoigne and Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Mrs Hayes is the school’s oldest living former pupil. She turned 100 on June 26 this year.

She cut a large cake to celebrate the school’s 110th anniversary on Friday, along with the school’s head boy Priyanshu Dalai, head girl Tayah Ngaha and youngest pupil’s Samuel Cave and Olivia Houben.

Principal Sandra Smith said it was significant to have Mrs Hayes at the event. After reading an article earlier this year on Mrs Hayes’ 100th birthday, Ms Smith sent her a birthday card and wrote to her asking if she was well enough on the day, could she go to the ceremony.

She said the journey the school had been through was unique.

“I feel an immense sense of pride in the journey of the school and what they are now achieving,” she said.

In 2007, Ms Smith encouraged its board of trustees to apply for the Ministry of Education National Building Replacement Funding programme to rebuild buildings dating back to the 1940s.

The February 22, 2011, earthquake not only damaged the school hall but rafted two other classroom blocks under construction and severely damaged the school grounds and car parks with liquefaction.

Due to the school’s rapid roll growth, it is awaiting construction of a fourth classroom block.

On the day of the earthquake the school had about 185 pupils before it went down to 125 in about a week. It is now sitting at 305.

Ms Smith said the pupils have never been in a school hall and it was significant teaching them about special occasions, the role of the governor-general and the commonwealth.

She said it was an “amazing occasion” to have Dame Patsy and Sir David attend.

But it was not the only milestone acknowledged – it announced its new school name gifted by Ngai Tahu.

From next year the school will officially be known as Whitau School.

Whitau means the purest and raw form of flax fibre and is strong and resilient – boding with the school’s vision and values.

Ngai Tahu believes the flax grew abundantly in the north Linwood area of the school giving it both a historical and metaphorical association to
the school and its learning model.