Firstly I would like to thank everyone for their patience and support in this trying hour: the teachers and administrative staff have been working ceaselessly since we heard the news on Sunday morning, with the aim of getting the school ready to recommence classes as soon as possible. There are, as you will no doubt realise, significant safety issues as well as practical ones such as reconnecting electricity, computers and usage of buildings, access etc.
This report is meant to bring everyone up to date and let you know where we are now and where we hope to be in the near and medium future.
1. The story so far: somewhere between 5 and 6am on Sunday 29th April a passing golfer saw the fire and alerted the fire brigade (our sincere thanks to this so far anonymous person!). The Headmaster was away and Mrs Donald and Mrs McKendrick together with Mrs Cleaves and Mrs Bhandari took charge of operations that day.
The damage is this: the classroom next to the lunchroom (Mr Kininmonth’s classroom) and the library and corridor of Colet House, and all their contents including books and furniture and computers, were completely destroyed. The western side of the lunchroom and the staff workroom were extensively damaged, as were Mrs McKendrick’s and Mrs Donald’s offices. Our server room and to a lesser extent, the other classroom at the western end of Colet House (Miss White’s room), were also affected. The damage was confined to Colet House and we are very thankful for the fact, principally, that no-one was hurt.
On Monday morning, the teaching and administative staff assembled to take stock and respond as best as possible. This included setting up my old office and the old administrative area to accommodate temporarily Mr Kininmonth and Miss White’s classes. We also had to relocate Mrs Donald’s and Mrs McKendrick’s offices.
The administrative staff has been dealing with insurance, electricity, telephones and other infrastructure shortfalls. There are a thousand and one things to do including responding to all the outpouring of support we have received from our own school and the broader community, for which we are all immensely grateful.
Our plan is to take out an advertisement in the Manly Daily thanking everyone. Bunnings, for example turned up with an offer to resupply equipment that was lost. And three Bunnings people turned up yesterday with a barbeque and made vegetarian burgers for all the staff – and then donated the barbeque!
2. The present situation: as each day has gone by, we have been in the hands of engineers, our insurers and other investigators who have been keeping us posted on when it would be safe and practical to allow the children to return. The tin roof had to be removed and the ash and insulation stabilised for the safety of those with any breathing problems. As of Wednesday 2nd May, this work is proceeding and they estimate that it will be completed by Friday and therefore at this stage the plan is for all children to return to school on Monday 7th May.
We should just like to emphasise that this situation is clearly unprecedented for us, and fluid, and if this return date is further delayed, we will let you know. If you hear nothing more, then school resumes on Monday.
3. The future: firstly in relation to second class, their accommodation is the best we could do on short notice and we have cleaned it and provided desks, chairs and other equipment . We have completed a work health safety audit and feel that for the foreseeable future, the accommodation will work. At the same time, we are sourcing demountable accommodation for these classes.
Secondly, in relation to the rest of the school, we will be fencing off the damaged areas of Colet House which basically means, all of it, for the time being. Lower First children should make their way to their classrooms by going around the playground end of Colet House and crossing in front of the Music Centre. This will keep them off our driveway.
For other classes, it will be academically and for most other purposes, business as usual.
Thirdly, because of the damage to the lunchroom, we will be having packed lunches until further notice. Some good news is that the kitchen is, as far as we can tell, only smoke damaged, and the new lunchtables also seem to have survived. As the dining hall was damaged, we can’t at this stage say when school lunches will resume.
4. Forthcomng events: we have several major events coming up –
School Information Tour, Thursday 3rd May – we will be available to meet anyone who turns up at our scheduled tours.
P&F meeting, Monday 7th May at 7.30. This will go ahead and we will meet in Mrs Dunn’s room (next to the admin office). Phillip Wolfers, the Chairman of the Board, Mrs Donald and I will be in attendance to report and field questions and concerns as best we can. Open Day and other issues will also be discussed.
Open Day Sunday 20th May – we are going ahead with Open Day and we are in the process of deciding how much is practical. However the Art Show has been postponed. We hope to have it later, perhaps to celebrate the reopening of the refurbished buildings.
Working Bee for Macquarie House – Saturday 12th May from 12.00 – 4.00 This will go ahead as it will help us get ready for Open Day.
All other events from late May onwards will proceed as normal unless events intervene.
One forthcoming event which I would like to alert you to is the visit of my colleague from our sister school in Durban, over the last weekend in May. We will be arranging an event to introduce her to the school community.