Construction in Schools and its Impact on Students and the Community

You’ve heard the news about building improvements at your school. One side of you feels over the moon that your child will have access to such incredible facilities!

But perhaps the other side of you feels anxious, concerned, and unsure.

How will it impact the students during construction?

 

There’s a natural tendency to immediately think about the disruption that construction at school can have on your child and their learning and on you and others in the school community.

Schools are always conscious of the importance of minimising disruption as a critical element of any planned building improvement. However, sometimes, there is no way to avoid significant disruption due to logistics, time constraints, cost, or a combination of some or all of these factors. In other situations, disruption is minimal.

You may have heard that we are completing an exciting re-design at St Mary’s Primary School. As we move to implement Stage 2 of the School Building Master Plan, parents can be assured that ‘disruption’ was a vital element of all discussions undertaken throughout the design process in 2021.

 

View from new reception entrance to be built at St Mary’s Primary School.

 

This approach now means that we can stage the building works, so there will be almost no disruption for students throughout the building period.

To help you understand how this will be done, we have provided answers to commonly asked questions about construction in schools below.

By answering these questions, we hope to help you feel more confident that any disruption here at St Mary’s Primary School will be minimal.

 

Why are building works being undertaken?

Although our main school building is adequate to cater for our current student numbers, how the area is configured regularly requires students, staff, and parents to make compromises about the environment in which they conduct the necessary daily operations. Specific examples of this include:

  • Inadequate breakout spaces to facilitate student learning, professional staff learning, visiting consultants, or parent-teacher conferences
  • A need for a purpose build Library, STEM and Art Room
  • Upgraded bathroom facilities on all levels of the school building
  • A welcoming space that parents can use
  • Visible connectivity throughout the building
  • Appropriate First Aid facilities
  • A more welcoming entrance and associated administration facilities
  • Lift access to all parts of the building
  • Upgrades to a range of associated essential services

 

How long will construction take?

Based on our current predictions, it is considered that all building works should be completed in approximately nine to twelve months.

To give you more insight into the building process, here are the planned stages for the construction, showing you changes to the environment before, during, and after construction.

 

Changes Before Construction

Moving around classrooms at the end of the year is a common preparation technique to prepare for the next year, and it is an annual part of school life in most schools.

Any necessary classroom relocations are currently being planned for the end of the current year, in line with the usual end of year practice.

 

Changes During Construction

At this time, we envision that all students will be located within the main school building for the duration of the construction period. We forecast that students (except for Foundation) will remain in the same classroom throughout the 2022 school year.

Foundation 2022 students have been prioritised as a cohort to move into their new classrooms once completed. This is expected to occur in mid-2022.

 

Changes After Construction

All other classroom relocations are currently being planned for the end of the 2022 year, in line with the usual end of year practice.

 

Will routine activities continue as usual?

At this time, there is no reason to believe that all learning, and all our calendar events, should not proceed as usual.

While it is normal for some minor inconveniences to occur during a period like construction, these are expected to have minimal or no impact on the school’s day-to-day operations for the duration of the construction period.

 

What will the result be?

It is expected that the upgrade to our school will deliver a facility that reflects a unique, contemporary school environment that addresses the deficits spoken above.

Our upgraded school facilities will provide:

  • Adequate break out spaces to facilitate student learning, professional staff learning, visiting consultants, or parent-teacher conferences
  • A purpose build Library, STEM and Art Room
  • Upgraded bathroom facilities on all levels of the school building
  • A welcoming space that parents can use while also functioning as a multipurpose space
  • Visible connectivity throughout the building
  • Appropriate First Aid facilities
  • A more welcoming entrance and associated administration facilities
  • Lift access to all parts of the building
  • Upgrades to a range of associated essential services

 

An impression of the Central Stairs area at St Mary’s Primary School

 

Will the upgraded building be covid compliant?

At the initial design stage, there was no building code in place that provided neither recommendations nor requirements regarding ventilation, and this remains the case today. This is an evolving area and will likely remain so for the next couple of years. However, it should be noted that the following will apply:

  • Natural ventilation throughout the building will be improved as a result of the works being undertaken.
  • The Victorian Government is delivering air purifier units (model Samsung AX7500) to Catholic schools separate from any building works.
  • A fundamental approach in the new building as it is now will be to keep windows/doors open to ensure good air displacement/movement and natural ventilation.
  • Existing mechanical ventilation systems can be used/modified to improve air ventilation.

 

How will these improvements benefit students?

Student outcomes will be improved on many levels, including student academic performance, student wellbeing, and students’ social and emotional development.

Academic

The provision of adequate breakout spaces, purpose-built specialist spaces, and better connectivity throughout the building will assist staff in delivering improved programming, which tends to impact student achievement positively.

Wellbeing

Several areas contribute to improving the overall wellbeing of students as a result of enhanced facilities at St Mary’s Primary School. These include having a range of purpose-built and dedicated breakout and specialist spaces, modern bathroom facilities on all levels, a contemporary first-aid facility supported by a visibly adjacent administration wing, a lift facility, and more robust connectivity throughout the building. The fresh, modern look, which helps improve the overall mood and morale among students and teachers.

Social & Emotional

In conjunction with more excellent connectivity, a more welcoming administration environment, and a dedicated parent/multipurpose room, the new and improved spaces will all support and foster more significant levels of interaction and productivity. These new facilities will also create a new sense of pride, not only for the new spaces but also for how people interact.

 

Proposed new view from northwest of St Mary’s Primary School.

 

How is it being funded?

The delivery of our school’s Building Master Plan was predicated on a commitment to Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) that St Mary’s Primary School would fund Stage 1. The Tennis Courts repurposing was seen as ‘enabling work’ to support Stage 2. The cost of Stage 1 currently underway is $595k, and it is expected to be completed by mid-November 2021 and is being funded by:

  • $50k from School Cash Reserves
  • $100k from the Parent Committee
  • $445k School Loan (Interest-Free)

Stage 2 involves a significant upgrade to our school building and is anticipated to commence in 2022 and be completed before the end of the year. It will cost $2.735m and is being funded by:

  • $35k from school cash reserves
  • $1.6m Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools Supplementary Capital Grant
  • $150k School Building Fund (Parish donations)
  • $950k School Loan (Interest-Free)

 

Minimal Disruption with Long-Term Benefits

While the immediate euphoric response of parents to a school building program can often be quickly overwhelmed with ‘…how will my child be impacted during the construction period?’, we hope the considerations above provide reassurance about the entire process.

In addition, the strategic approach to staging, which has been an integral part of the whole planning process, now means there will be a seamless transition at the end of 2021 leading into the construction period of 2022 – which will then be mirrored in moving into the new facilities in 2023.

In conclusion, this building project will deliver minimal disruption whilst ensuring that the long-term impact and benefits will be significant.