Proposed school zone for Selwyn College to overlap with Glendowie, Tāmaki

A proposed zone change for Auckland’s Selwyn College would give parents in part of Remuera the right to send kids to their closest school – and one mum says she’s “absolutely thrilled” at the possibility.

Thanks to an anomaly in how the Meadowbank school’s zone was drawn up, children living in the area around Remuera Golf Course known as St Johns Park are currently in zone for Glendowie College – despite it being much further away than Selwyn.

That wasn’t a problem when Selwyn had no zone as the school’s roll was low and out-of-zone kids could easily attend.

But Selwyn’s roll has boomed, and a zone was introduced in 2015. Families in the St Johns Park bubble must now go on a ballot to get in, despite living nearby.

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The school now takes almost no out-of-zone students who do not have a prior link to the school.

Now the Ministry of Education has drawn up a new proposed zone for Selwyn, which overlaps with Glendowie’s zone. If approved, children in St Johns Park would have the right to attend either secondary school.

The change is not guaranteed. In the past, both Selwyn and One Tree Hill College were forced to back down on proposed overlapping zones after hostility from parents in the grammar zones.

At the time, school zone boundaries were decided by boards of trustees. The Ministry of Education has now taken over zoning powers in efforts to make enrolment schemes more equitable.

Submissions are open until July 14 on the proposed changes.

Genevieve Ostring’s family lived inside the St Johns Park area – meaning their two boys were in zone for Glendowie, nearly 7km away, instead of the 4km to Selwyn.

Son Andy, 12, starts high school next year. Concerned that he would be torn away from his childhood friends, the family rented out their house and moved up the street to get into Selwyn’s zone.

Ostring also started a petition calling for a dual zone, which garnered more than 130 signatures.

Many people were in a similar situation to Ostring’s family. One said her child was “very distressed” at the prospect of going to a different high school from their friends; others said the current zone “just doesn’t make sense” and was “manifestly unjust”.

“I want my kids to walk to school not have to bus or be driven. I want them to learn with the kids they grew up with and I want to continue to build connections with my local community,” another said.

The petition hadn’t received a single piece of negative feedback, Ostring said. She was “absolutely thrilled” on hearing the news that the Ministry had proposed an overlapping zone.

“That allows my children the community that we’ve always wanted – the option of going on to the same schools as their friends from primary and intermediate.

“This is brilliant for us – we can start thinking about moving back to our own place. It’s huge.”

A second amendment on the eastern boundary of Selwyn’s zone includes a patch which overlaps with Tāmaki College’s zone. That area currently has almost no housing on it but is slated for development, Selwyn’s principal Sheryll Ofner said.

The two changes give parents choice without taking away from anyone, Ofner said.

“It’s a proximity thing. It’s much much closer to where they live.”

Long-term, Selwyn wants to move to having mostly local students, she said.

“I really believe state schools are there to serve their local areas – that’s why they were built in the first place – so we’re trying to make ours the school of choice for our local community. But we still have a number of out-of-zone students.”

The redrawn zone is part of a wider three-year push to create or amend zones at 135 Auckland schools, to help with overcrowding as the city’s population increases. Around 47 schools had new or redrawn zones in the past year, and a second tranche of around 50 schools are set to hear this month what their zones will look like.

The Ministry of Education says it is likely to have the names and new proposed zones for those schools by the end of the week.

A third tranche of 20-25 schools where roll pressure is less urgent will get zones or amendments by 2023.

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