The first tentative steps towards starting Sonrise came in several different ways.
Firstly a small group – who would ultimately be very involved in the school – were challenged to question the prevalent belief that evolution is central to scientific thinking, and realised that alternative views are possible.
In tandem came the realisation that education is not a secular activity – concepts and ideas have religious foundations, even if they are not articulated, and are part of education.
Thirdly was the understanding that there were other educational options apart from the state education system.
From these ideas came action.
A public meeting was held to discuss Christian Education, attended by more than 60 people and from this a small group developed who identified and defined the special character, established the Gisborne Christian Education Trust and started Sonrise Christian School.
The school opened in 1993 in the crèche at Mangapapa Church with 7 pupils. The school grew slowly and operated in a number of differing facilities until returning to Mangapapa Church in 1996
For many years the idea of integration – accepting government funding for operation of the school – had been avoided because of concern about the degree of control that the government might have over the special character and the education process. It became clear that the curriculum was broad enough to fully enable Christ centred special character curriculum to be delivered, and so in 1998 the trust commenced negotiations to integrate. On the 4th of October 1999 the school integrated, and continued at Mangapapa Church. This situation was unique because we had integrated in leased premises.
One significant condition of integration was that we were required to establish the buildings of Sonrise Christian School on a new block of land, which we had purchased, by 1 July 2002.
Initial plans were drawn but proved to be too ambitious, as we had insufficient funds, and time was passing rapidly. As 2001 drew to a close we sought the assistance of the Christian Education Trust who are the proprietors of Bethlehem College in Tauranga. Plans were redrawn and again funding sought. Time was passing rapidly by but the gap between the cost of the buildings and the available funds was reducing.
Prices were reworked, plans trimmed, but still the cost did not match the funds. It was the beginning of May 2002 and it looked likely that we were not going to be able to proceed. We set a deadline of 4pm, May 6 2002, and if we could not afford to build at that time we would abandon our attempts. This would have meant that the school would have to close. Prices and options went to and fro, but on the 6th it still did not look likely. But some last minute work meant that a phone call late in the day, just before our deadline, confirmed that the price finally matched funding.
The next day the building site was laid out and initial work commenced. The deadline for completion was less than 2 months away. Over the next two months, against all previous weather patterns, the weather was warm and dry. Not a single day of building was lost because of the weather, and by the deadline of 1 July the building was virtually finished apart from some painting.
The Trust, the Board of Trustees and the staff of the school have worked very hard to establish and maintain high quality and effective special character curriculum delivery and to ensure the special character in all aspects of school life.