In the next few weeks, teachers and students at VMCH specialist school, St Paul’s College say goodbye to its home of the past 61 years.
The school’s Kew campus started as an ambitious project to provide blind children with a Catholic education back in February 12, 1957. Its first classroom was an old stable at the same location.It is now a thriving school with 60 students, 30 teachers, allied health professionals and support staff.
For teacher, Hygenia Lobo, who has taught at the school for 20 years there is mixed emotions about the move from Kew to Balwyn.
“It will be sad. It’s been home, my family, my community, for 20 years. I know every brick on these walls. I know this place so well and everything is so familiar. It is special.”
Now the school is moving to Balwyn to continue its mission in a modern and even more inclusive school. The new Balwyn campus was used as the year nine campus for Genazzano Convent. St Paul’s College students will have access to new technology and resources to help them learn in a fun and interesting environment.
The new school will include an assistive technology centre, technology pods, a sensory room, a café and kitchen garden for senior students to develop vocation skills and independence.
Families, students and teacher are excited about the future of the school and of course at times like this there is lots of great memories.
James O’Brien has worked as a teacher’s assistant at St Paul’s College for the past 19 years and says his best memories of the school have been graduation day at the end of each year.
“The thing that’s touching is graduation because you have seen a student in many cases since (prep) right through to graduation,” he said.
“You suddenly realise they’re a person of the world now. They’ve done their schooling and they are out into the big bright new world.”
Hygenia says she is always thrilled when students come back to the school as grown-ups for a visit.
“It is really rewarding to see families coming back, students coming back and saying hello and becoming a success outside of school. That is the magnetism of St Paul’s. It has its own charisma and magnetism that brings people back to visit.”
The educators agree that there is also a lot to look forward to.
“We have made very good use of this building with what we have. But I think it is a good thing that we are going to better things. At the end of the day it is a building. My members of the family are coming with me and that’s all that matters,” Hygenia said.
James agrees that the students and teachers have a lot to look forward to.
“With disability right across the board they are trying to aim towards an ordinary life (for students). We’re moving to a school that will help them feel like they are at a regular school. It looks like a regular school. It sits in a regular suburb.”