WORK will start in coming weeks on a $6 million rebuild of St Therese’s Primary, the most expensive and largest scale construction project the New Lambton school has seen in more than 60 years.
The school’s principal of 19 years Duilio Rufo said he was “extremely excited” about the rebuild, which will see the school transform throughout 2019.
“Even with the construction of two new classroom buildings using $4 million of the Building the Education Revolution funds, this is the biggest project in terms of cost and scale of work since the school was built – and it was completed in 1956,” Mr Rufo said.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the community and the kids.
“The school has outlived its use-by date and the ongoing maintenance costs are quite large.
“We want to make sure it is here for the long term – for the next 50 to 100 years.”
The school of 630 students has received about $3.5 million in government funding through the NSW Catholic Block Grant Authority.
The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and the school will fund the balance.
Mr Rufo said the rebuild would complement a suite of changes the school has introduced in recent years, including a greater emphasis on: collaboration within grades; developing thinking skills; a play based approach; acceleration for gifted students; and a “wall-less classrooms” model allowing students to complete tasks away from their desks or outside.
St Therese’s – alongside St Aloysius at Chisholm – will partner with education consultant Mark Treadwell from term two for a three year program to “change the paradigm” and develop new teaching and learning practices to help students better apply the knowledge they gain at school to real world and future situations.
“The buildings are a part of all of this,” he said.
“They are the final shift in allowing us to come to terms with what we can do to bring children into the 21st century.
“It’s changing the culture of the school and the thinking of some of the parents away from the idea of sitting in straight rows.”
Mr Rufo said construction workers arrived this week to start laying infrastructure including dark fibres and demolition was expected to start before the term begins.
The Shaddock Architects rebuild will be completed in two stages.
The first stage comprises the demolition of two of the three timber classroom buildings dating back to the 1950s and closest to Royal Street and the construction of three new single-storey buildings, each with three classrooms, by July.
Walls between the classrooms will incorporate sliding glass doors, to foster even more collaboration between classes and grades.
During this stage, some classes will be taught in the school’s original building from the 1920s, which is now a multipurpose space, and the library.
The second stage comprises the demolition of the remaining timber classroom building; the covered outdoor learning area next to the multipurpose space; the canteen and its adjoining shaded area; and a toilet block.
Construction will begin on a learning space and library with four breakout rooms and a verandah; a canteen attached to the multipurpose space and with an adjoining shaded area; a playground and courtyard; and two toilet blocks.
The rebuild is expected to conclude around December.