SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is phasing out its 48-year-old private high school near Hamilton, New Zealand.
Church College of New Zealand, with 700 pupils and 113 faculty and staff, is not admitting new students for the 2007 school year and will cease operations at the completion of the school year in November 2009.
Closing Church College of New Zealand was “an agonizing, multiyear decision which has been made at the highest levels of (church) administration. President Hinckley visited the school himself three years ago to make a personal evaluation,” Rolfe Kerr, the church’s commissioner of education, told the school’s faculty earlier this month.
“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,” Kerr said.
There is no talk of selling or razing the school building, said Selwyn Ketene, an LDS bishop in Wellington and a senior manager in the country’s ministry of health..
It would make a great place for college-level instruction, much like Brigham Young University-Hawaii or BYU-Idaho, he said.
Ketene said his parents were among hundreds of church members on “labor missions” in the 1950s to work voluntarily on the school and a temple.
“They sacrificed seven years of their professional lives to this building effort,” he said in a phone interview. “They had high expectations that the college would continue forever.”
Ketene and his wife, Rahui Hippolite Ketene, attended Church College and both went on to a university, where he earned a doctorate and she got a law degree.
Many church members in outlying areas either sent their children to the Church College as a boarding school or moved the whole family to Hamilton so their children could attend as day students.
The school was known for producing basketball and baseball stars, but not for its academic excellence, Ketene said. And it was a huge drain on the church’s finances in New Zealand.
The school charged a small tuition but expenses were heavily subsidized by the church.