Thursday, October 22, 2009

LDS Church College Of New Zealand To Closes Its Doors At The End Of The 2009-10 School Year; A Local Group Wants To Stop Its Demolition

The LDS Church College of New Zealand is scheduled to close its doors permanently at the end of the 2009-10 school year, after 52 years of operation. This came as a surprise to me; I only learned of this story from an individual who had a LTE published in the Salt Lake Tribune on October 22nd, 2009. Here's the letter:

The LDS Church College of New Zealand is scheduled to close at the end of this year. Sad as this is for many of us, we respect the right of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make this decision. However, I question its decision to demolish the school buildings and convert the campus to farmland. The school is 50 years old, but its facilities are still vastly superior to most schools here.

The school achieved an excellent academic record, particularly with Polynesian students. Its students are almost all Mormon, and they strengthen the LDS Church here and New Zealand. Our government's educational authorities are willing to discuss taking over the operation of the school as a special character school. All that is now praiseworthy and of good report about the school could continue but would be funded by the New Zealand government.

Governance of the school would be in the hands of a board of trustees that, given the nature of the school, would be Mormon. LDS Church leaders need to be aware that this option exists and explore it carefully before demolishing the school buildings.

Robert Cammock
Hamilton, New Zealand

A brief Google search revealed that the LDS Church announced the decision to close the school back in June 2006. At the time, Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, who was on the Quorum of the Seventy and also the Commissioner of the Church Educational System, explained "This has been an agonizing, multi-year decision which has been made at the highest levels of Church administration. President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the school himself three years ago to make a personal evaluation. The decision is sad in many ways, but it is the right one and will allow the Church to bless others in parts of the world where the need is greater."

Regarding the decision, Church officials also explained at the time that it is the policy and practice of the Church to discontinue operation of such schools when local school systems are able to provide quality education. As of 2006, only 10 percent of eligible LDS youth attended CCNZ; more than 6,000 others were attending other local high schools throughout New Zealand. The strength of New Zealand's educational programs was also cited as a major factor in the decision to close the school. Apparently, New Zealand does a much better job of keeping politics out of their schools than we do in the United States.

The school's aging facilities were also cited as a contributing factor, although no intention to raze the facilities was expressed at the time. Apparently, the facilities are now considered too old to be justifiably maintained; according to this June 2009 story from the Waikato Times, the Church now maintains that the buildings are an earthquake risk even though a local group of LDS wants to buy the facility. The college, which is adjacent to the LDS temple in Hamilton, was originally constructed by volunteer labor missionaries and dedicated April 26th, 1958, by then-Church President David O. McKay, six days after he dedicated the adjacent temple.

Further information about this issue is posted on the Save CCNZ blog.

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