Over the last couple of years we have been exploring best-practice in the design of learning spaces. The traditional school model of 'cells and bells', which largely emanates from a factory-model conception of education, is under threat. The space in which learning takes place has an impact on the learning that happens there. Given that our goal is to shape young people who have the capabilities outlined in the Inaburra Learner Profile, we want to develop spaces that will facilitate this goal.
In particular, libraries are going through an existential redefinition. Libraries are no longer the major community repository of information for research, as online connection has democratised data and made it ubiquitous. Rather, libraries are becoming a community gathering point or watering-hole that provide a context for individual and group learning. Our Senior School library, built in a much earlier stage in the life of the school, is ready to be supplemented with a new learning commons.
Our research also included reflection on the present and future needs of the school community and the surrounding neighbourhood; a range of stakeholders, including students, staff, parents and local residents were consulted. As a consequence, it became evident that increased carparking onsite would be wise, increased playground space for the Junior School would be useful and a central location for our Learning Enrichment team would be helpful.
At the Presentation Events at the end of last year, we publically launched our intention to move ahead with a major building project, using this video.
During the course of this year I have been meeting with small groups of parents explaining our plans, answering questions and inviting families to contribute financially. I am delighted that we have raised over $80K so far through contributions from more than thirty families.
The building project is being conducted under the NSW Government’s SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007 as a complying development. In accordance with the legislation, the plans have been certified and lodged with the Sutherland Shire Council and public notification has taken place through an advertisement that you may have seen in the St George-Sutherland Shire Leader.
During the holidays, as is our usual school practice, we sent a letter to some 400 households in the vicinity of the school, notifying them of our plans and inviting them to attend a public meeting to explain and discuss this initiative. In the past, some of these public meetings have been quite volatile. In contrast, our meeting last week was very low key. Only seven local residents attended and we were able to hear, take on notice and respond to their particular concerns. I am hopeful that this building project will not be marked by significant controversy and angst in the public arena.
We are now in the process of finalising the tender documents and contracts; during the rest of the year we will be planning and preparing for the project. At this point we are hoping to commence the building at the end of the school year and our (very early) estimates are that it is likely to take at least eighteen months.
While it is evident that the construction period will cause significant inconvenience to the life of the school in the short term, the long-term benefit will be experienced both in a couple of years and in the decades to come.
If you would like to find out more about our plans or contribute to this project, you can find more information here. I would be delighted to meet with you at one of our Creating Our Future events.