Today marked the first day of school ever for Denman Prospect’s Evelyn Scott School, the ACT’s 89th and newest public school.
The first day of school jitters were in full effect across Canberra this morning for students and parents alike, with ACT public schools reopening their doors for the 2021 academic year over the week ahead.
Armed with little more than their backpacks and a sense of excitement, this morning the Molonglo primary school’s original 187 students enjoyed the rare experience of inaugurating the contemporary learning spaces while meeting their teachers and classmates.
With a coffee van in the carpark for parents to meet one another too, the morning had run very smoothly, according to inaugural principal Jackie Vaughan.
“We’ve had some parents spying through the window … Our teachers have done a great job of making sure they are feeling settled and calm,” Ms Vaughan said.
With her five-year-old son Hemalok starting kindergarten at Evelyn Scott School today, mother Veena Goluguri said it’s an exciting occasion they have waited 18 months for.
“He’s been to the playground, he had his balloon … he met his class teacher and his new friends, and he’s so excited and happy,” she said.
“He’s just asking me ‘when am I going into the classroom?’.”
As local residents, Ms Golguri decided Evelyn Scott School was right for Hemalok after meeting Ms Vaughan.
“When we met her for the first time, I was very surprised by her attitude and the way she spoke to us, as a parent and as a kid.
“We could see the passion, the compassion for kids and for education as well, so that’s when we felt this was going to be the start of this beautiful school.”
Ms Vaughan was appointed to the role in August last year and said the opportunity to take on the challenge of establishing a newfound school is the fruition of a long-held professional aspiration.
“It’s a really momentous day actually for me,” she said.
“To be able to build and co-create a greenfield school with our community so that it’s a connected P-to-T school is absolutely a dream.”
As the Molonglo region grows, the $47 million zero-emissions facility, named after Indigenous rights activist Dr Evelyn Scott AO, will eventually be called school by 600 K-6 students.
The sustainable school comes complete with solar panels, double-glazed windows, and an insulative membrane to aid indoor climate control and keep any smoke haze, like that seen during last year’s bushfires, out of the classrooms.
The playgrounds and play spaces have been built sustainably too, with a focus on nature-based play areas and reuse of building materials.
“This building is purpose-built for future focused learning,” Ms Vaughan said.
An onsite gymnasium with two basketball courts will be online by mid-2021, and in 2023 construction will be complete on the adjoining high school.
Since her appointment, Ms Vaughan has been hard at work preparing for today; from hiring staff to consulting with architects on design elements, to engaging with the community, having met every family enrolled at the school prior to day one.
“Since that day we’ve really been working together on what today looks like,” she said.
“The major focus is making sure that everyone feels welcome and our major focus and essential question if you like … is belonging.
“We want all students to belong, this is their school, and that’s why one of our major pieces with our vision is to make sure our students are connected to their school.”