‘We are looking to future with hope’
Joy as staff and pupils move into new school more than three years after blaze destroyed old building
St Dominic’s Primary is back home in Petersburn – with delighted pupils and staff marvelling at their stateof-the-art new building as it opened its doors for the first time on Thursday.
Youngsters cut a ribbon at the main pupil entrances before excitedly heading inside to explore their new classrooms, library and activity spaces, dining hall and nursery.
The new St Dominic’s – back in its old site on Petersburn Road – opened almost exactly three-andahalf years to the day since the previous school was destroyed by fire on March 26, 2015, with the primary school having been based since then in a wing of St Margaret’s High.
Head teacher Teresa Verrecchia described the new facilities as “outstanding – the learning and teaching spaces are tremendous and I’ve never seen better in a school”.
Showing the Advertiser around the rebuilt St Dominic’s, she said: “We were all desperate to see the children’s faces on the first day. The space blew everybody away and to a five-year-old especially, this will feel absolutely massive.
“The first thing that would strike the pupils is the playground, as they’d come off a bus and straight into classrooms at St Margaret’s and our play space was lost for those three-and-a-half years, so we can’t wait to see how they go on to use it.
“It’s a lovely school and we were thrilled and delighted the first time we came in – it’s just fantastic and we couldn’t have asked for more.
“Now we can’t wait to get the children’s work up on the walls and decorate the blank canvas.
“This has everything that we need, with great ICT space and external storage as we’re really big on outdoor learning and it’s on the same footprint with the same outlooks as the old school. It’s absolutely been worth the wait.”
Bright classrooms are arranged on either side of the spacious main teaching area and all have floor-to-
ceiling windows with direct access to the outdoor spaces, plus a halfglass wall to the activity area and its e-learning zone, library and soft seating area.
Nearby, the dining hall and kitchen can open up onto the games hall, which also includes an accessible stage with lifts and hoists at each side. Gym changing facilities also include two accessible changing rooms, and there are also intimate care rooms and toilets indicating that they are also for use by those with invisible disabilities.
Youngsters at the nursery have a huge playroom, plus a smaller space and laundry and changing areas, as well as dedicated outdoor access which they have already been enjoying to the full. The new school was built by Morrison Construction, whose Central Scotland managing director Eddie Robertson said: “It’s fantastic that pupils and teachers have been enjoying the state-ofthe-art facilities.
“We’re proud to have delivered this project that will provide a lasting benefit to the community, and has positively impacted the local economy by supporting six apprenticeships starts, six apprenticeship completions, two graduates and creating nine new jobs during construction.”
Of the 170 youngsters at St Dominic’s, only the current Primary Five to Seven pupils had ever been in the old school, with all the younger year groups – and many staff members – only knowing the temporary base at St Margaret’s High and daily bus journeys there from their meeting point at Airdrieonians’ stadium.
Ms Verrecchia said of their move away for the past three-and-a-half years: “We got by with plenty of smiles and humour, and there was a lot we had to do day-to-day. We couldn’t all gather in one place without having booked a hall well in advance, we missed having parents dropping in and a lot of our management meetings took place in the grounds at the stadium.
“Nothing was rescued from the fire so we went in to St Margaret’s with no books, absolutely nothing – but within two days, Primary Seven were online chatting to their partner school in Spain and it shows that great teaching and learning can happen anywhere.
“The staff have been absolutely tremendous, you couldn’t ask for better, and the parents have been very supportive in knowing the difficulties we faced and helping to adapt.
“Our send-off from St Margaret’s High was fabulous and very moving.
“They were fantastic with us and we’re so grateful to everyone there for the support they gave us throughout and for making us feel so welcome.
“The pupils were always very kind to the children.
“They all lined up to make a guard of honour on the last day which we didn’t expect and found really emotional.
“We left as friends and there will always be a huge bond there – it’s a shared experience and part of the tapestry of both schools.”
Classes are now in full swing at the new St Dominic’s, with pupils settling happily into their new home.
The head teacher told the Advertiser: “Coming back here was emotional in lots of different ways; it’s very much a new beginning for us and we’re now in a fantastic new building and back in the community.
“We fought hard for that as it’s important to us, the pupils and parents.
“All of the classrooms and spaces are named after Scottish islands [ inspired by the names of the surrounding streets in Petersburn].”
Ms Verrecchia added: “We proved that St Dominic’s could be put anywhere. It’s all about building resilience, in children and staff, and we’ve shown that’s a huge part of what we are as a school – and we’re looking to the future with hope.”
It’s a lovely school and we were thrilled... it’s absolutely been worth the wait Teresa Verrecchia
Grand opening Pupils Hollie Heafty and Tommy Galloway cut the ribbon
Delighted Head teacher Teresa Verrecchia
Lots of fun Children wasted no time in enjoying themselves
First footing Pupils line up to sample their new home
Warm welcome Hannah McCann’s inviting message
All smiles Joy was in the air at the new St Dominic’s