THERE will be great celebration next Tuesday, October 26, at the official opening of the multi-million dollar Toora Primary School rebuild.
Students and teachers have been enjoying their spacious new architect-designed quarters all year and are looking forward to showing visitors around when the school is officially opened by State Upper House Member for Eastern Victoria Region Johan Scheffer. He will be representing the Minister for Education, Bronwyn Pike.
Principal Barbara Purvis said that the school was fortunate to be a recipient, in 2007, of a $2.1 million grant under the Relocatable Replacement Program, which was part of then State Education Minister John Lenders’ Building Futures Program.
Principals and school council presidents of schools – Toora’s included – which had long endured learning in relocatable buildings, worked with Education Department representatives and architects designated by the Department to come up with appropriate designs for their schools. The Department appointed the firm of Haskell Architects to design a new school for Toora, with Daniel Haskell as Project Manager.
The result is a stunning building supportive of the flexible teaching methods of the 21st century. A key feature is the adaptability of the learning spaces. Sliding doors enable the sizes of the rooms to be easily altered depending on the size of each class, from whole school to small tutorial.
“At the same time, all the students are under one roof, which makes for good relationships between students of all the different levels,” said Mrs Purvis.
Showing The Mirror around last Friday, the principal could hardly contain her excitement. She had just been told the school’s very pleasing National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results, which saw the grade five students performing on average 20 per cent higher than the state average in all areas of literacy and numeracy, and the grade three students also doing well.
“I’m sure their physical environment contributed to these great results, as well as the excellent teaching at Toora and, of course, the students’ efforts,” said Mrs Purvis.
Given the wet weather of late, it is hardly surprising that landscaping is yet to be completed around the new building, although students and helpers have put quite a few plants in and have begun work on a dry river bed, and it is heartening to see how well the ferns transferred from the old school garden beds are doing.
A colourful mosaic on the wall beside the front door makes quite an impact on anyone arriving at the school entrance in Harriet Street. Artist Fiona Kennedy worked with students to create the mosaic, which depicts an iconic Toora landscape, complete with green hills, wind turbines, butterflies and a soaring eagle.
The administration wing at the front of the building includes foyer, offices, meeting room, toilets with access from within and outside and a much-appreciated hot shower. The staff tearoom/kitchen doubles as a teaching kitchen, in which last term the school held a ‘Junior Master Chef’ competition. The winning team will be preparing a dish for next week’s grand opening of the school!
At the heart of the new building, which is fully wired for computers throughout, is a huge room with soaring ceiling, bright blue feature wall and carpet underfoot – comfortable enough for the children to sit on in large groups. With lots of windows the room is wonderfully light. Sliding doors open to smaller rooms. These – classrooms and a library/wet room for messy activities such as science or art – are in turn divided by sliding doors which can be opened depending on the space required. A couple of outdoor learning areas, complete with roofs and seating, provide extra options. One of these spaces is currently providing a great venue for students to construct a cubby house out of recycled milk cartons.
Meanwhile, across Harriet Street there is more construction work going on in the other half of the school grounds. A multi-purpose school hall is being built with an $850,000 federal government Building the Education Revolution (BER) grant.
“It is scheduled for completion next March, but it could well be finished earlier,” said Mrs Purvis. “It will include a full-sized basketball court with rubberised sports flooring. We hope the community will share the hall with us, using it for sport, music and drama – practices or performances. It should complement Toora’s community hall nicely, providing an extra facility when the other venue is unsuitable or not available.”
Once the hall is completed, it will be the centrepiece of a sports precinct behind the school’s iconic Jubilee Gates.
Visitors to the official opening next Tuesday will be given the opportunity to tour the new facilities and, through a pictorial display, should also be able to compare the school of old with its magnificent modern replacement.
“There have been three schools on this site,” said Mrs Purvis. “”Originally the school was housed in an old hall relocated from Port Albert. Then for many years there were portable classrooms. Now finally we have a purpose-built structure ideal for 21st century learning.”
An open invitation is issued to anyone with an interest in Toora Primary School – past, present or future – to attend the opening next Tuesday at 11.30am. Enjoy singing by the students, an address from the architect, refreshments and a tour of this beautiful new facility.
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