After the 24,000 acres of the Kiwitea Block were put up for auction, the men folk started to arrive, cutting tracks through that standing bush to their section, pit sawing timber for their first homes, which were no more than shacks. Next their families joined them.
As families settled the land, thoughts turned to erecting a building to be used for schooling, church services and social functions.
According to extracts from Missy Maggie Perry’s diary dated 1881, three women were appointed to canvas the district for funds to build a hall. Misses A. Perr, A. Gibson and A. Currin became known as the ‘Kelly Gang’ bailing up everyone for ?1, their efforts realised ?40. With this money and timber pit sawn by the settlers they were able to erect a hall, later known by those in the district as ‘The Old Tabernacle’. On 10 November 1884, Mr R.C. Templer welcomed nine pupils to the Kimbolton Road School as it was first known. Kiwitea School, as we know it today, had been born in this new hall.
Like all children growing up, there were many knocks, bruises, tears and joys. Kiwitea had its share. The days were long for those attending, many having to do chores, walk to school, home again, more chores and homework. From 1886-1889 the duties of the teacher were divided between Kiwitea and Cheltenham, a half day of school at each place.
We are fortunate that extensive records of school activities were kept to show today just what those early growing years were like. Bushfires from clearing farm lands were forever threatening, many days the school would be closed because of smoke or the encroachment of fire nearby.
Childhood illnesses would cause the school to be closed for long periods. The school roll would fluctuate families moved down country to await the addition to the family, but as shacks were replaced by larger homes and roading improved people stayed in permanent residence. Many families or descendants are still in the district today.
Mr R. French, who commenced his duties as teacher on 3 March 1890, was still teaching at Kiwitea when the first room of the second school was opened in July 1892. This new building made teaching and learning more pleasant. The old one became a community hall. The old public hall/school was re-erected on the Anglican Church grounds and used by a curtain, infants on one side and seniors on the other. During 1915 a new infant room was built, which unlike the older room with its double desk on a stepped floor which rose four inches for each row of desks, this new room was furnished with tables and chairs.
Over the years shelter sheds and playgrounds boundaries have been altered but there was always room for the school garden plots which returned many a prize for the pupils in district competitions.
A pride in the appearance of the grounds surrounding the school has always been evident in Kiwitea. For example, the oak tree (1917) in memory of Lord Kitchener, and the kowhais in memory of Old Boys who lost their lives in World War 1, have made for pleasant surroundings today. It is noted that after gardening a close inspection of all tools was made and all were oiled and put away. This pride in the school and its amenities has passed on through the 100 years and can be seen in the appearance of the grounds today. To have a horse to ride to school on was a luxury. Many rode doubled banked, one family is remembered as riding four on one horse at a time. As the demand for larger horse paddocks and sports fields grew so the boundary surrounding the school changed.
Concerts, fancy dresses, dances, all made for a very busy community life in Kiwitea. Like all children growing up, the needs of our school have grown. These needs have always been met by the School Committee and community. Things like tennis court(1939), playgroup equipment, educational books and teacher aids. By 1970 Kiwitea had outgrown its surroundings so when school started in 1972 pupils and teachers were the proud occupants of a new three classroom and a new teacher’s residence.
The area that Kiwitea School catered for has grown over the years. Firstly the inclusion of children from the Te Awa area and since 1962 the Beaconsfield area children. In 1937 a proposal to convey children from Te Awa to Kiwitea by bus was put foward, and this was finally agreed in 1947.
Sometime during Mr Mead’s term as Headmaster 1936-1942, he and his wife ran a private service to the Ride Road in their own car. This service was taken over by Mr Williams. This private contract was taken over by the Education Board in 1956. A further bus run to Beaconsfield commenced in 1975 – and McBeth Road, Bryces Line in 1977. For many years the Boys and Girls Agricultural Club has been active in the Kiwitea School with competitions for calves, lambs and garden plots.
The spiritual needs of the district’s children have never been neglected. About the same year as school started in Kiwitea, Mrs Barrett (Maggie Perry) started the first Sunday School in the ‘Old Tabernacle’, her daughter followed on her good work. Since 1956 the Kiwitea Weekday Bible School has carried on this need in the community.
To record all the memories and facts since Kiwitea School was born would be very difficult, as every pupil brings back different memories.
All would agree that the growth of this school in the past 100 years has been due to the early pioneers, local residents, parents and the pupils themselves who have always had a pride in their school, which in many ways has been the continuing centre of the district.