New classroom, new year, new rules

Year 4 pupils at St Joseph's School pleased to be starting the new year in a new classroom space.

Months of building work has come to fruition and is benefitting St Joseph’s School pupils this week in their return to school.

The pupils, from new entrants to Year 4, are set up in their brand new classroom spaces and adjusting to their new-look school day, some with facemasks and social distancing (in smaller groups) under the red traffic light system.

St Joseph’s School principal Cath Blacklow said the new classroom spaces, administration block layout and staffroom were a pleasant start to the year, offset by a few covid-related challenges enforced this week, especially for the Year 4 pupils and above.

The block of four new classrooms at the southeast corner of the school is the start of a five year building plan costing over $1million.

Modern interconnecting rooms between classrooms can be used as extra classrooms, or break out spaces and have kitchen facilities.

The open plan modern rooms – two classrooms to each building – interconnect with break out spaces, two kitchens and a toilet facility.

They are modern-plan and can be used as stand alone classrooms or opened up for bigger spaces, which was good for social distancing of pupils.

Mrs Blacklow said the school was mitigating covid risks as much as possible and had asked parents to only visit school when necessary.

Pupils were having lunch in smaller class groups and Year 4 and above, including teachers and staff, were wearing masks indoors.

Mask wearing raised some challenges, Mrs Blacklow said.

The lack of facial connection and ability to read someone’s face affected inter-personal skills between pupils and teachers.

It also raised challenges in the composite Year 3 and 4 class where it was optional for Year 3 pupils to wear masks, she said.

There were also considerations for immune-compromised children.

There are plans for the large outdoor asphalt space outside the new classrooms,, including some colourful painted game options.

The new classroom spaces all share an outdoor asphalt area good for plenty of outdoor play and discovery use such as wood work and water play.

The work was carried out by Hanham and Philip Contractors and funded by the Catholic Development Fund; a cyclic fund administered by the church to its schools and topped up with state integrated school infrastructure funding from government of around $172,000.

The long-term plan will see the removal of a section of older classrooms and a utility block near the new build, an extension to the school library and the building of a new school hall.

The school has a roll of 256 pupils, which by the end of the year would likely sit around 260, its maximum level.

There were no plans, or any need, to build extra classrooms.