Community School gets new digs

by SANDI MILLER
20th June 2022

A TINY SCHOOL has been changing lives for almost 50 years, and it will now have the facilities it deserves after an $18 million redevelopment is completed.
Croydon Community School opened as an “alternative school” in the 1970s and has been catering to students who do not fit — or do not want to fit — within the mainstream system.
Having operated largely out of portable buildings at the old Croydon Primary School site in Mt Dandenong Road, it is now moving to a brand-new, purpose-built facility in Croydon Road at the vacated Croydon High School site.
Principal Bronwyn Harcourt said the school’s student population has been kept small.
“It was 23 when I started; it is 126 this year, but we had deliberately reduced our numbers before moving to the new site, but we’ve got about 73 this year alone on our waiting list.
“And we get enquiries from Grade 4 families for Year 7 transitions and Year 11 kids who are struggling in the mainstream.”
She said the Big Picture Learning model the school uses is becoming more and more an option of choice.
Bronwyn said that Big Picture Learning allowed them to engage with students based on their passions.
“When they are engrossed and loving a topic and are able to explore it fully — students have followed passion projects including a school-wide scale model of the Tasmanian Rail system and a taxidermy project — the learning and the confidence that is picked up along the
way — they learn how to learn,” she said.
Assistant Principal Kaye Bhan told M&N Bulletin that the school is a public school, so it is open to accepting all types of students and, in essence, is run like a gifted program with student-directed learning.
She said if they attract only bright kids, “who are wonderful to have, and we want them, but we want the others who are at risk of falling through the gaps”.
Education Minister James Merlino and Member for North East Metro Sonja Terpstra recently toured the close-to-completed school.
Mr Merlino described the project as “really critical”.
“Every school project is important, but this is the last stop for these kids, and if we can engage with them and deliver them a pathway, we set them up for life,” he said.
The school redevelopment follows the ethos of the school community, with the architects consulting with the students to enable the school to be fit for purpose.
The new school offers townhall-style performance space for the music faculty, which opens onto the main courtyard, with a creek running through the outdoor areas, a multi-purpose outdoor court, stationary bikes where students can add charge to the school’s power supply, classrooms (called advisories) including Science, Food Tech, Physical Education and Technology facilities, there is even a wood-fired oven, computer lab, 3D printing workshop, and a wellness centre with private spaces for counselling or other medical interventions.
Bronwyn said the school also has an integration area for students that are disengaged from the education system.
She said school staff can work one-on-one or even two on-one with the students to build trust.
“Trust with young people who have none in adults — and young people who are used to transactional relationships.
“It is about them having a having a home here, where they feel comfortable and welcomed.”
The integration area even has a separate entrance to the main school so students can come and go on their terms.
Students were all able to participate in work experience with the various trades during the construction.
One Year 12 student, Marcus Joy, had been on-again, off-again with his school attendance but has become engaged with his learning, and, Bronwyn says, “he shows up every day, coffee in hand” and will graduate at the end of the year.
Marcus stood out as part of his work placement with the project’s landscaping team and has now been offered an apprenticeship with the firm.
During his tour of the facility, Mr Merlino offered the school community, the architect practice Crosier Scott and building company McCorkell Constructions his congratulations on the project.
“This is one of the best projects I’ve seen in my eight years, so well done,” he said.
Students will say farewell to Mt Dandenong Road at the end of Term 2 and move to the new campus at the beginning of Term 3.