Catholic primary school may close after 120 years

A small Port Chalmers Catholic school may close after more than 120 years.

The school roll has been shrinking for years. At present, there are just seven pupils at St Joseph’s.

After writing to the Ministry of Education about the state-integrated school, Dunedin’s Catholic bishop, Michael Dooley and the ministry are consulting on the school’s future.

The consultation process began last week. It will canvas the board of trustees, the school and parish community, as well as the wider community.

“The St Joseph’s School at Port Chalmers is an excellent school but unfortunately has been struggling with a low roll for a number of years,” Dooley says.

Once the consultation process is complete, the Minister of Education will decide the school’s future.

St Joseph’s principal Tom Woodhouse has declined to comment on the situation.

A post on the school’s Facebook page says the consultation process will run until 29 October.

“This is a very sad and tough time for the children and their families, the staff and the board,” the post says.

The school was opened in 1898, after Mother (now Saint) Mary MacKillop and two Josephite Sisters arrived in Dunedin at the request of Fr McMullen, the parish priest of Port Chalmers, according to the school’s website.

They were there to do ‘God’s work with God’s children.’

On arrival they found the old school, then called St Mary’s School, to be less than adequate.

It was an old shed-like house and in a sad state of disrepair. The Sisters called upon the divine inspiration of St Joseph to help repair the old and cold house to make it more habitable. The new school, St Joseph’s Primary School, was opened at the end of January 1898.

Saint Mary MacKillop was the first Head of St Joseph’s in Port Chalmers, teaching the Upper Standards. Some of this teaching took place in the church choir loft (now removed) and in the pews because of the demand for space.

The second St Joseph’s School building was opened in 1913. The two-story brick building became a feature of the Port Chalmer’s landscape.

The Sisters of St Joseph continued to run the school until 1979 before handing the role over to lay teachers to carry on ‘God’s work’.

In 1987 the third St Joseph’s School was built. The new building incorporated the new image of Catholic education in the Dunedin Diocese and features modern, stylish classrooms and a generous outdoor play environment.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: ,