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New school built on community foundations

The civic focus of Dunalley Primary School’s building plans is reflected in the new Community Kitchen, which was the first of the permanent construction projects to begin at the once bushfire-ravaged site.

Elizabeth Knox, Chair of the Dunalley School Association, said the most exciting aspect of the design of the new school is that the facilities will be shared with the wider community. For instance the commercial kitchen, located within the school gym, will not only enhance the experiences of students but also provide modern facilities for community functions and small business enterprises.

Building work on the Community Kitchen began late 2013 and should be completed in March 2014. The construction of the rest of the school is due to start this Spring and is expected to take 12 months to complete.

“The plan for the rebuild has been a great collaboration between the School Association, the School, the Department of Education, and the architect, Mark Dunbabin,” Elizabeth said. “Our focus has been on designing a school specifically for rural education, but one that also has a strong community element.

“The new design will also make us one of the first Tasmanian schools to achieve a five-star Green Star rating through the Green Building Council of Australia. This rating assesses the project against a broad range of environmental criteria, and considers factors such as its energy consumption through materials used in construction and operation, natural daylight, indoor air quality, water recycling, and land use.”

Only 40 days after the January 2013 bushfires levelled the site, Dunalley Primary School opened its gates to a temporary school for 130 students. This mammoth effort by locals, teaching staff, the Department of Education and construction crews became a powerful symbol of a community that refused to be broken.

Elizabeth said the community’s sense of optimism and security was further enhanced by the speed of the State Government’s commitment to rebuild.

“There was a need to bring things together for the children and to alleviate their concerns by returning their school to normal, as much as possible,” she said.

“The redevelopment of the school has also been a chance for the children to be part of the future, and for them to feel the level of support that our community received. They’ve very much been part of the new school design by presenting the design team with ideas and thoughts about what is important for them in their learning journey. That has given them permission to get excited about the future.

“Quite frankly the last year from January 5 onwards, to me, has been amazing. We’ve seen our community pull together as we recognised our love of this place we call home, and it has resulted in many new and strengthened friendships. In many respects, as we accept the losses brought about by the fires, we are able to embrace the opportunities that have been presented to us. That in itself is an important and powerful part of our recovery.”