Dannevirke was founded by Scandinavian immigrants, who were brought to New Zealand by the government in 1872 to fell the forest that covered much of southern Hawke’s Bay. Dannevirke means, literally, Danes’ Work.
Prior to European arrival, Maori inhabited many parts of the district and were mainly of the Rangitane Tribe who descended from the Kurahaupo Canoe. They were later joined by members of the Ngati Kahungunu from northern Hawke’s Bay who were from the Takitumu Canoe.
With the arrival of Europeans also came Christianity and both Maori and Europeans embraced this belief system. From these beliefs in 1967, The Christian Fellowship Church was formed in Dannevirke.
In the years 1976-77, a number of Dannevirke Christian families wanted a biblically based education for their children. Ross Davis, the pastor of the Dannevirke Christian Fellowship researched possibilities and found a school in Auckland that was using the Accelerated Christian Education system. In 1978 the Baptist Church was repurposed and the Dannevirke Christian School was opened with 24 students aged from 7 to 13. Three years later 5 and 6 year olds were included.
When the Fellowship was advised that the Baptist Church wanted to re-open so they could no longer use the buildings, they started seeking other options.
With the Baptist Church once again wanting their building, a piece of land on Ruahine Street was purchased by The Christian Fellowship Church. This land had previously been gifted to the hospital by Rangitane Iwi.
Many committed families worked long hours to achieve three classrooms and one toilet block and in 1984 the original part of the school which still stands today, was opened and blessed by church elders.
In 1996, Dannevirke Christian School was integrated with the State School System with the Dannevirke Christian Fellowship as proprietors. This ensures that the special character is maintained. With the integration came a name change to Totara College of Accelerated Learning, with Totara, meaning The Majestic One, being chosen.
Students are successfully involved in such things as fundraising for World Vision, being part of mission trips to Vanuatu and India, Dannevirke interschool events and serving the wider community. A feature of our service is our contribution to the community via the Arts. The school is involved in the yearly A.C.E student convention. This enables students to compete and fellowship with other young Christians.
The major fundraiser, the Dannevirke Garden and Craft Expo has been part of school life since 1995.
2016 saw the introduction of a school Haka written acknowledging the power of Christ in us and in 2018 a Karanga calling people to put on the cloak of faith, hope, love and peace. These tāonga represent our special character past, present and future.
Over the years Totara College has expanded with additional classes being opened in 2000 and in 2003 a new Technology Room and Hall were added. With integration; monitors, a caretaker and cleaner were employed and less unpaid involvement was needed. The staff were very settled with most remaining on for many years. In 2020 a new library was opened and a great sandpit was added onto the playground.