The Riverina Anglican College has now officially opened the final stage of its junior school with the Bishop on hand to deliver his blessing on the recently completed Building 2.
Head of junior school Kylie Chacon said the infrastructure was now in place to welcome up to 400 students from Kindergarten to Year 6.
“It’s hard to believe that the junior school began with a paddock, a presentation and a pandemic in 2020,” she said.
“To have moved from empty paddocks to two, and now to three buildings has been remarkable and our teachers along that journey have been trained in utilising these carefully designed spaces.”
Acting principal Anthony Heffer said that he hoped that the new space would be a symbol of “progress and unity”.
“This building is a vessel for the pursuit of knowledge, a sanctuary for growth, and a canvas for future achievements that will ultimately impact thousands of lives,” he said.
Wiradjuri man Luke Wighton conducted a smoking ceremony to begin official proceedings and he described the location as a “sacred space”. It was a sentiment echoed by Member for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr in his address.
“I think schools are a sacred space – independent of whether you have faith-based schools or not – it’s a sacred space because it’s a space in which, as a society, we transmit our values to the next generation,” he explained.
“We touch the future.”
Anglican Bishop Dr Mark Short delivered the blessing and the new learning centre was officially opened.
Mr Heffer said completing the junior school had been a four-year journey that he was pleased was over.
“Being a construction site while trying to start up a junior school has brought a lot of challenges and the staff and the students have been amazing,” he said.
“To come to the other end and to finally achieve this feels great and I don’t think the students and staff even fully appreciate yet how nice it’ll be to just be able to be in these classrooms because there’s been a lot of sharing of different rooms and moving about.”
He said the architects and builders had had some fun with the project, making the most of natural light and including curved brick walls and natural timbers.
“There’s just a whole range of pretty significant sort of modern design features that we’re pretty proud of and I think the brickies actually enjoyed the challenge of putting in a curved wall,” he said.
Ms Chacon explained that there was also a strong learning philosophy behind the classroom design and the way the spaces were utilised.
“We listened to our community and we didn’t just set up open spaces, we reframed the innovative teaching practices, but within a versatile space,” she said, pointing out the range of desk and seating options.
“All this furniture is movable and flexible and goes in layers from sitting to standing and then those lower seats and even down on the floor.”
Ms Chacon explained that new students would have a three-week transition to the new spaces and the approach to learning.
“It sets them up for the year with the expectations of how to work in this space and how to grow your own approaches to learning. And that’s across the whole college,” she said.
“It’s almost like a university in that you can bring in up to 28 students to do short sharp masterclasses and then they move away and go and do their own thing.
“All those students and our teachers are trained in what we call ‘seating for success’ and they know how to get students to choose the right seating for them to be on task and to be successful.”