Carinya Christian School Gunnedah is set to expand into secondary schooling.
School principal Chad Kentwell said the board had considered the move in the past and found the current conditions to be the most favourable to tackle the venture.
Mr Kentwell cited in the school’s and town’s growth as major factors, and a successful application for $650,000 in capital grants funding.
The school will introduce Year 7 by 2019, with plans to build a middle school on a new block of land in Little Barber Street, which runs parallel to the current grounds. Each following year, a new year group will be introduced, so the school will cater from prep to Year 10 by 2022. Mr Kentwell said there are currently no plans to cater for Years 11 and 12.
The middle school building will house Years 5-8, and subsequent infrastructure will be built to accommodate Years 9-10. The school is currently in the process of purchasing blocks adjacent to the Little Barber Street site to allow for this. In total, the school will have almost 4000 square metres of new land to build on.
Mr Kentwell said the decision was driven by growing enrolments and would provide more options for parents. It will be particularly helpful for parents who already have children attending Carinya in Gunnedah and would like to keep their kids in town when they reach high school.
The principal said there were no Christian high schools between Tamworth and Moree, so it would be a good option for not only Gunnedah students but also those from outlying areas. Two buses per day leave Gunnedah to take high school students to Tamworth.
“When we surveyed parents earlier in the year, 94 per cent of the parents who responded – more than 80 per cent responded – said they would keep their children here if we went to Year 10,” Mr Kentwell said.
“That was obviously the biggest driving factor to be able to provide that secondary Christian schooling option for our families and the wider community.
“A large part of the decision to proceed has to do with receiving that funding.”
Currently, the school has some composite classes but by 2019, all classes will be single-stream. Enrolments have doubled in the three years that Mr Kentwell has been principal, with increasing numbers in the early learning sector of the school. Next year, 56 children will be in early learning classes and 96 students will be in Kindergarten to Year 6.
“This has been the best opportunity,” Mr Kentwell said.
“If we don’t act now, when those larger numbers of students in the younger ages get to high school, we won’t be prepared.”
Mullaley mum Carolyn Bishop has been sending her daughter Anna to Carinya since prep and will now have the option to keep her at the school for Year 7 in 2019.
“When the numbers started to grow [at Carinya], it seemed natural to start asking, ‘What about [Years] 7 and 8?’,” she said.
“There seemed to be enough of a need to support a third option in Gunnedah.
“I’m very supportive of it and it’s a great option.”
Mrs Bishop said “Tamworth is not an option for everyone”.
“We couldn’t consider Tamworth because we’re on the other side of Gunnedah,” she said.
The Mullaley resident said Mr Kentwell had been “very responsive to parents’ needs” and the Gunnedah school had the backing of its sister school in Tamworth, so there would be no lack of resources or experience on-hand.
“I’m really excited,” she said.
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