Update on Construction at St Mary’s and its Impact on Students and the Community

You’ve now had confirmation about the commencement of building improvements at your school. One side of you feels over the moon that your child will have access to new and improved facilities! 

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

How will it impact the students during construction?

 

Further to my earlier blog on this topic, we would like to provide the following information about our exciting planned refurbishment. 

Despite the unprecedented challenges posed in the current building climate, collectively, St Mary’s School, Gray Puksand Architects, Jardon Group and Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools have been able to achieve most of the key elements of the building scope outlined previously. This is a significant achievement and a tribute to everyone who has been involved.

To help you understand how this has and will be done, we have provided updated 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.

 

View of Administration Building from Church.

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 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 built Library and Learning Resource Centre
  • 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

Internal sketch of ground floor Learning Resource Centre

How long will construction take?

Further to conversations with the recently appointed builders, the building program will run for nine months. The builders, Jardon Group, will take possession of the school site on Monday 12 December to engage in site preparation, and will commence construction on Monday 19 December 2022. 

 

Most of the major demolition will occur during the summer break and any additional construction works that may impact normal school operations will be undertaken outside of school hours and or, during the 2023 Term 1 and Term 2 holiday breaks.

 

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 following year, and it is an annual part of school life in most schools.

 

As part of our discussions with Jardon Group about the staging of the construction works, minimising student relocation during the works, was a key objective. I am pleased to confirm that this has been achieved. All classes, including First Aid and the administrative function side of the school, will remain in one pre-planned area for the duration of the construction works.   

Changes During Construction

Year 1 – 6 Students

We can now confirm that all Year 1 to Year 6 students will be located within the main school building on the upper floor for the duration of the construction period. Access to this space will be via a new external stairs (a future exit facility) that will be installed over the summer break.

Foundation 2023

Foundation 2023 students have been prioritised as a cohort to remain in close proximity to the School Office, First Aid and bathroom facilities, which will be located in the Parish Hall. 

  • To enable this to happen, Foundation 2023 students will have their own exclusive use of the portable classroom in addition to exclusive deck space at the front of the portable classroom. As such, it ensures additional outdoor play space for students similar to the Foundation deck we are already used to in the current building! A third and very important benefit of having our Foundation students use this space, means, they will not have to climb an external stairway to the school building for the duration of the renovation.

Parish Hall

The Parish Hall will be used to facilitate:

  • School Office, First Aid and Principal’s Office (Hall Foyer)
  • Music, Art, Library and Assemblies (Main Hall)
  • OSHC (room adjacent to the kitchen)
  • Student bathroom facilities for the duration of the build

Church Narthex and Sacristy

The Church Narthex will be used to facilitate:

  • Occasional meetings
  • Staff bathroom facilities
  • Principal and General Meeting Room

Outdoor Spaces

  • To ensure the safety of everyone in our community, the Lower Oval will be used by the builders as a direct entry/exit point and for storage for the duration of the build
    • As such students will NOT have access to the lower oval during the construction period. 
  • Students will however continue to have access to an abundance of outdoor play space, including the adventure playground, inclusive of sand pit, the upper playground and our newly resurfaced multipurpose courts (this will also eventually be home to our new shade sails and passive play space!)

Changes After Construction

All school operations are scheduled to move into the newly refurbished building at the beginning of September 2023.

 

Sketchers of internal central stairs

Will routine activities continue as usual?

As previously indicated, any and all forms of ‘disruption’ was a vital element of all discussions undertaken throughout the design process in 2021 and staging discussions held recently. This forward planning now means that we can stage the building works so there will be no disruption for students throughout the entire building period. In addition, the approach also allows the builders unimpeded access at all times. This will enable them to complete the building works in the shortest time possible and therefore return the building to us sooner than originally anticipated and at the lowest possible cost.

At this time, we believe that all learning, and all our usual calendar events, should proceed as usual.

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

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 of 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 need for a purpose-built Library and Learning Resource Centre
  • 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

 

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, will contribute to improving the overall mood and morale of students and staff.

Social and Emotional

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

Internal sketch of ground floor Multipurpose Room

How is it being funded?

Based on the original School Building Master Plan, the school has been successful in obtaining funding from Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) to support this initiative.

The delivery of our school’s Building Master Plan was predicated on a commitment given to Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) that St Mary’s Primary School would fund Stage 1. The repurposing of Tennis Courts to deliver a Multi Purpose Court Space was seen as ‘enabling work’ to support Stage 2. The cost of Stage 1 is $595k. Completion of the adjacent Passive Play Space is scheduled to be completed in Term 1 2023 further to the installation of new Shade Sails which have been delayed by supply issues. These works have been 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 has now been confirmed to commence on 12 December 2022. It will be completed at the end of August 2023. In order to maintain the integrity of the original scope, we are especially pleased that Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) has provided our school with an additional $315k from the Supplementary Capital Grant Fund to support this refurbishment. These works will cost $3.050m and are being funded by:

  • $35k from school cash reserves
  • $1.915m Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools Supplementary Capital Grant Fund
  • $150k School Building Fund (Parish donations)
  • $950k School Loan (Interest-Free)

Sketch of western stairs and Multipurpose Room

 

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 updated 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 2022 leading into the construction period of 2023 – which will be mirrored in returning to 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. 

We look forward to welcoming everyone to our grand opening in 2023 once all renovations have been completed. It goes without saying that regular updates will be provided to all families in our School Newsletters, Facebook and our website, throughout 2023.