‘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

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - St Dominic’s - Ju­dith Ton­ner

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

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