Topic: Kawerau Central School (No. 1 School)

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The first primary school in Kawerau opened in February 1954. It was known initially as Kawerau Primary School and later renamed Kawerau Central School.

The school began in a two roomed building located on the Bowen Street site. Mrs Lou Potter was the first teacher (Relieving Head Teacher) with T. Lyon as her assistant. The first registered pupil was Beth Potter, daughter of Mrs Potter with a roll of 40 pupils recorded on opening day.

By March the school roll had reached 75, so another pre-fabricated building was placed on the site and Mrs Synnot, Alan Bell and Dennis Rogers joined the teaching staff. In the second term Miss Ayson (Mrs L. Bean) was appointed the Infant Mistress and Mr Les Spiller took over as the relieving Head Teacher.

On 1st of February 1955 the Kawerau District High School opened on the Bowen Street site comprising of eight permanent classrooms and 8 pre-fabricated classrooms. The school accepted pupils from 5 year olds to university entrance. The primary department had 224 pupils and the High School 40 pupils. Before there was schooling in Kawerau, primary aged children attended Otakiri Primary School and high school pupils attended Whakatane High School.

On the 3rd February 1963 Kawerau College opened on River Road. With the opening of this school the Kawerau District High School then reverted to its original function, a primary school named Kawerau Central School. Kawerau Central School opened the 1963 year with classes from Primer 1 to Form 2. The roll in February 1963 was 221, with Mr Murray Barton as Headmaster.

 In 1969 a new pre-fabricated class room arrived as the school had 599 children enrolled. When Kawerau Intermediate School opened in February 1971 the three primary schools in Kawerau became contributing schools with Form 1 and 11 pupils being enrolled at the Intermediate School. From this time Kawerau Central school had pupils enrolled from Primer 1 to Standard 4. There were 434 pupils enrolled at the school in May 1971.

 In June 1975 the new Speech Therapy Clinic arrived on site and on the 7th November the Mayor Mr Roy Stoneham officially opened the new library building. The school Parents and Teacher Association purchased $1,000 of books from Whitcoulls for the new library.  

Putauaki School, in the new housing area of Valley Road opened in May 1978 with 92 pupils transferring from Kawerau Central School to the new school. By 1987 the number of children enrolled at Kawerau Central School had declined with many families leaving Kawerau due to the restructuring at the Tasman mill. The beginning of 1990 saw the start of Tomorrows Schools with the administration of schools now under the Board of Trustees system. This year there were 9 classes. Over the next 20 years the roll of the school slowly declined along with the overall population of Kawerau.  

With further decline in the school age population of Kawerau, the Ministry of Education made the decision in 2011 to combine Kawerau North School, Kawerau Central School and Putauaki School on the Putauaki School site. This decision effectively closed Kawerau Central School. The school held a Celebration day on the 2nd   December 2011 with many foundation pupils attending from different parts of New Zealand and Australia. Kawerau Central School’s final prize-giving was held on the 13th December 2011. The school bell rang for the final time at 12 noon on Wednesday 14th December 2011. The permanent school buildings and swimming pool were demolished over a 5 week period in February and March 2012. Four buildings were moved from the Kawerau Central site. The library and computer suite were moved to Kawerau South School and were converted into class rooms. The Dental Clinic and the Speech Therapy clinic were moved to other sites out of Kawerau.

The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum curated an exhibition on Kawerau Central School history September 2012-August 2013.

This history is incomplete so feel free to add any details or photos and memorabilia relating to the school's history.

References: Moore, Ken. "Kawerau: Its history and background" (unpublished manuscript). 1990, education chapter: pp 1-5.

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