A High Court decision has dashed the hopes of a Bay of Plenty intermediate school fighting a merger with Kawerau College, described as "a breeding ground for gangs".
Kawerau Intermediate School's board of trustees went to the High Court challenging a government plan to close the school and force it to merge with the town's high school.
But the court on Wednesday ruled against Kawerau Intermediate School, a disappointed principal Daryl Aim told NZ Newswire.
He admitted it was probably the end of the fight bar going to the Court of Appeal, but they would explore all avenues. The board is yet to discuss the ruling.
Mr Aim said the overwhelming majority of the community wanted to keep the intermediate going as it was the best education pathway for their children.
"But they are not the decision makers, unfortunately."
He described the system that wanted to close the school as "more like a dictatorship".
The community had been asked for its opinion but been ignored.
In some way it would have been better for the community not to think it could influence the decision, he said.
During the High Court hearing, the intermediate school's lawyer Mark Hammond claimed the college - run by statutory managers - was a breeding ground for gangs, had a high suicide rate, a lot of teenage pregnancies and had a major bullying problem.
Mr Aim said it was critical the college be prepared to take on the younger students.
About 200 intermediate students would have to go the college next year, or parents could choose to put them on school buses to go elsewhere.
"That's the last thing the town needs."
Crown lawyer Joanna Holden said the ministry's decision to close the school - made by incoming Education Minister Hekia Parata - was on the basis of what would be best for future generations.