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Kokopu School History

The following was compiled for the 105th Jubilee in 1989

In 1912 there was one school situated between the Kara and Kōkopu districts. It was situated on Mr M. McKinley's property at the Kōkopu end of McKinley Road. Children from both districts attended the one school. This school was then moved to a site adjoining the Kara District Hall, and a teacher's dwelling was erected as well in 1913. The Kara residents decided to work timber from Mr Henry Cleary's property (later to become Colonel Wood's property). Mr F Watts was the carpenter. He married Miss Cope, and her brother was one of the timber workers. Some time after the project was started, Mrs Watts died suddenly. A messenger was sent to the timber workers to relay the news, only to be met by the workers carrying out her brother's body. He had been killed earlier that morning when a log rolled on top of him. When a tragedy like this happened on those days, the relatives were shown great respect. It was some time before the work continued.

Nor was the completion of the work without its problems! William and Henry Wrack were the wagon men employed to cart the logs to the mill and the timber back to the building site. (These two brothers have streets named after them in Kensington, Whangarei. Wrack Street and Henry Street)

While one of the brothers was jacking logs on to his wagon, the jack slipped and speared the upper part of his arm. The jack had to be dismantled and he was taken to hospital in Mr Nobe's wagon. The buildings were finally completed in 1913. Mr Brennan came to teach in the Kara school on it's new site.

Kokopu School was opened on February 2, 1914, with Mr Kruger as the first Headmaster and a roll of thirteen pupils. These children came from the Guignier, Leca, Snelgar, Waymouth, Kokich and Baker families.

At first is was a part time school with Kara. The six days a week were shared between the two schools. This meant that pupils often had to attend school on Saturdays!

In August, 1914 the Great War broke out. This took all the young men from the valley including the Kara school teacher. Twelve men left during the war period. They were Donald Stuart, Melven Cleary, Jack and Charlie Nelson, Willie Dent, Harold, Ned and Henry Smith, George and Charlie Matthew, Bert Attwood and William Miller. The Matthew brothers failed to return home.

During this time, Mr Kruger came to teach at the school, but because he was a German, problems arose through prejudices on both sides, and he had to leave the district.

During Mr Kruger's term at the school it was changed to a half time school, three days at Kara and three at Kokopu, taught by the same teacher. This state of affairs remained for over twenty years.

The next teacher was Mr Izod, a middle-aged man who had been a good athlete in his younger days. He played games with the children. It took a number of good strong boys to stop him from making a touchdown when he had the football in his hands. He had a big beardie dog who joined in the game too. The dog was really good in a tackle! He beat the boys for the ball! It was a sad day for the children at the end of 1918 when the teacher and his dog left the school. This was the end of the war. The soldiers returned with the plague aboard the boat.

Donald Stuart returned home a very sick man. He stayed in Kara with his mother and brother, Murdock, for some time, then was admitted to hospital and died on Easter Monday, 1921.

The next teacher was an Irishman by the name of Michael Daniel Regan. He came to teach the children, but had an alcohol problem. Many a morning the children arrived at school and found that there was no teacher to teach them. One morning a prefect sent the children home and a week later there was an enquiry held by an education board official, the school committee, and the teacher and the children. It ended with the teacher being dismissed.

At the end of 1919, Lewis Cheeseman came to teach. He was from a well known family in the north. His wife died suddenly and a relieving teacher took over for a short time. His name was Mr Oswald Guest, and he was single. He left early in 1921.

The next teacher was the first lady teacher that the school had ever had. She was Mrs Dyer. She had three sons and two daughters. Her husband was a Wayby farmer. Val(Pip), her youngest son, has been teaching school for many years at Tikipunga. In 1925, Mrs Dyer gave up teaching through ill health. She was succeeded by another lady teacher, Mrs Lennane. Her husband was a farrier and he took over the blacksmith's shop in Maungatapere for a time while his wife taught the two schools, Kara and Kokopu.

In 1928, Mrs Lennane left and Mrs Brewer came. Her husband was a farm hand and proved a valuable asset to the district. The Depression in 1930 made things very hard for those leaving school because there was no work available. The local farmers were self sufficient, growing their own meat and vegatables, but many of the older identities remember the townsfolk who were forced to seek work, food, and shelter for their families in the country. In the early 1930s, Mrs Brewer left and Miss McDonald taught for a short time. She was succeeded by Mr Jim Wilson, who rode his motorbike out from town each day. The Kara school was closed down in April 1937 and about this time the original Kokopu school was moved to Waiotemarama and a larger school was brought from Maungatapere.

World War Two began is 1939, taking young men away from the district once again. Mr W. Attwood's son, Tom was killed in action. During the war years, there were two more lady teachers, Mrs Kokich and Mrs Spehr, and at the end of the war the children were taught by a Returned Serviceman, Mr Neville Ward, who had served in the islands.

In 1942, the Kara school house was brought to Kokopu and in 1950 work was begun on the Kokopu Block. A road was put through from Kokopu to Maungatapere and called the Kokopu Block Road. Returned Servicemen were settled there in 1952. The Kara school was put up for tender and purchased by the Dent brothers, who removed it on to their property. The Education Board recommended that the Kokopu school have a new school built and playing fields brought up to standard, with a school bus taking secondary children to the main road to connect with another into Whangarei, and returning, picking up primary school children and bringing them to Kokopu. Peter Buisman, a local farmer, drove this bus for twenty three years.


School History 1958-1989

These 31 years have witnessed a variety of changes in the school and Kara-Kokopu District. In 1958, two brand new classroom were opened, and thanks to community involvement, the learners swimming pool was also built and opened.

The original school house, constructed with upright weather boards, was replaced in 1959 when a new house was erected on the present site, west of the school. The original house can be seen near the road about 3 kms east of school.

The school roll has fluctuated dramatically, being a 2 teacher school in 1958, increasing to 3 teachers in 1963 for 2 years, then levelling out a 2 teacher school until 1985, when the roll exceeded 50 pupils, and a 3rd teacher was again employed. A new classroom was transported from Auckland in 1986 and resited at Kokopu, testimony to an expanding community.

A contributing factor to the increase in the school roll has been to subdivision of traditional farms on Kara Road, allowing greater diversification into horticulture. In conjunction with a growing community there have also been vast improvements to roads in the district. The Kokopu Block Rd was sealed in 1987 and later Kokopu Rd was sealed from the intersection with Block Rd to as far as the school. Kara Road is due to be sealed this year.

Children in the district have been transported to school by bus. The days of Peter Buisman driving the Departmental Bus have gone, with a private company contracted in 1980 to take over the run. It was very convenient in those days when the bus was parked in the bus shed next to school, as the teacher was able to drive the children to sports days and take cultural and educational trips without having to rely on parents for transport.

Improvements made around the school include erecting a flying fox, fencing the top field so the children are able to play without the worry of standing or landing in sheep manure, planting trees, shrubs and gardens, improved drains, a new water tank and an upgraded water pumping system which has allowed the teacher time to "teach" rather than call on his small motor expertise down by the river.

A new administration block with library facilities was installed in 1981 and a covered walkway built to link it with the old staffroom which is now used for storing teaching resources. A skyline garage was erected in 1980 and to complete the compliment of buildings, our third classroom was resited in 1986.

Teaching aids used in the classroom have kept pace with technology, making the classroom a more interesting place for learning. From the early 1970's equipment such as Over Head Projectors, listening posts, film and slide projectors, cameras, calculators, video camera and TV monitor and most recently a Commodore computer have all been acquired.

These improvements have been subsidised by the various school committees, from funds generated by the "Working Bees". Up to the present day, the children have all had their part to play in cleaning the school, however in 1986 the cleaner's hours were increased from 5hrs per week to 15hrs, so a cleaner had to be employed to vaccum, dust and clean windows, floors and toilets. The grounds and building exteriors have continued to be maintained by parents at the "Working Bee".

Many of the traditional school events have continued to be highlights on the school calendar. Picnics have been held at various beaches including Ruakaka, Ngunguru, and Wellington's Bay. The Calf Club Day is still enjoyed by children and adults. The Sports Days with other small schools in the district have been a feature, as has the annual cross-country meeting. Of course the dances at the Kara Hall have provided much enjoyment over the years, and the charm that the hall gives that little bit of "magic" to the popular end of year concert. Added to these have been the Guy Fawkes evening, and the annual School Camp which has been a popular highlight for senior pupils since 1975 when the children visited Port Waikato.

Throughout the past 105 years the school has enjoyed a close working relationship with the community, giving a firm basis for a well rounded education. The extended-family quality of the school reflects the close-knit community spirit and this has ensured a memorable association for past, present and future pupils, parents and teachers.

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