Woodridge pupils back after fire

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Pupils returning to school are welcomed by deputy head Steve Phillips, left, and preparatory head Trevor von Berg

Woodridge College and Preparatory pupils were welcomed back yesterday – nearly a month after fires ravaged half the school’s buildings.

Woodridge College headmaster Derek Bradley said staff were delighted to resume the academic year.

“We see the situation we stand in as an opportunity to rebuild an even greater school,” Bradley said.

“The entire team that supports the school and pupils is incredibly grateful for the support they have received and is extremely motivated to get back on campus and move forward.”

Following the fire on June 10, the school was closed while academic and administration staff secured the provision of mobile and temporary classrooms and a dining hall for boarding pupils as well as the reinstallation of IT systems.

Staff also worked on plans to make up teaching time and created shortened tests to replace missed exams.

Among the buildings destroyed were 13 staff houses and flats, three classrooms and the girls’ hostel at the preparatory section, which accommodated 29 pupils.

Also gutted were six classrooms and offices at the college, the dining hall, kitchen and the administration building, which housed the finance department, school records and Bradley’s office. The library was also destroyed.

In the three weeks since the fire, teams of staff and other contract workers have made extensive preparations for the first day back to ensure the health and safety of everyone at the campus.

Woodridge business manager Craig Warner said an appointed project manager would oversee the entire reconstruction, including safety and security. “The safety and security of our staff and pupils are of paramount importance,” he said.

“Boarding has been erected around damaged sites to prevent unauthorised access.

“We have employed additional security, 12 guards, and any construction vehicles will access the property via a dedicated road.”

The school, which is fully covered by insurance, will not be using any school fees to subsidise the reconstruction of the gutted buildings.

Any donations from the public and former pupils will be used exclusively to assist the ground and teaching staff who were displaced.

“We are overwhelmed by the nu- merous offers of assistance and the donations we have received,” Warner said.

“Other funds that have, and will be, raised by the OWA [Old Woodridgean Association] will be allocated to rebuild an improved schooling infrastructure under the discretion of the board of trustees.”

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