The school opened in 1953 on a site adjacent to Dominion Breweries on Great South Road in Papatoetoe. The school was called Otara Intermediate, the name used then for that part of the district. The 650 pupils enrolled at that time came from both the Papatoetoe primary schools and the surrounding district. The school comprised a double storey block of 16 classrooms and several specialist rooms, including a library. The headmaster was Mr R.A. Robbie. Both a school committee and a home and school association was formed.
The school was renamed to Papatoetoe Intermediate to avoid confusion with the suburb of Otara taking shape a kilometer or so to the east.