Support from school community drives shelter shed construction

It’s been the stage for an epic NBA inspired basketball game – complete with team singlets.

A soccer pitch and assembly area.

Split into five tennis and volleyball courts and even a makeshift bicycle track, when the weather didn’t co-operative.

In time – when COVID restrictions allow – it will also house an art show, Chinese New Year celebrations and Mother’s Day functions.

The options are limitless.

It might be just a large shelter shed, but for the students, staff, and community of Beverley Hills Primary, it’s a place to connect.

Key points

  • New covered outdoor learning area has become a multi-purpose facility for Beverley Hills Primary School
  • School community raised $280,000
  • The new structure features safety padding, wonderglass lighting and speakers
  • Used by the school for PE classes, bike riding, basketball, soccer, general assembly and events such as Chinese New Year celebrations

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And there’s no one more excited about this new structure than the East Doncaster school’s Assistant Principal Rachel Wallace.

“We didn’t have an indoor PE (physical education) space or a space where the whole school could fit – a room where we could have assembly together,” she said.

“Now we do…we just all love it.”

After 24 years at Beverley Hills Primary School, most as a specialist PE teacher, a multifunctional undercover area was something Rachel wanted for the students.

“Planting the seed” years earlier, her move into a school leadership, combined with strong community support helped make an Entegra shelter shed possible.

“We didn’t get any money from the government, it was all school-funded which was amazing,” she said.

“Every year, parents and friends fundraised about $20,000 and the school had been saving that money. We applied for grants to get money from the (education) department, with no luck.”

 

 

Rachel worked with Entegra for about a year before the shed construction started, gauging pricing and lining-up potential timelines to ensure the work fitted in with existing Victorian School Building Authority maintenance jobs.

The project cost about $280,000 and was completed at the end of last year. It replaced two asphalt courts with cracks in them.

Since the shelter construction, a perimeter fence has been added, protecting the shed and court, with its blue synthetic grass, from afterschool hours intruders and potential vandalism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited student’s time at school this year, with most learning from home to abide by government regulations.

 

 

But the time they did have onsite, Rachel said the new shelter area had a good workout.

It also helped the school manage better manage COVID rules.

“The students were just amazed with the shed, we had to roster certain year levels in there because they all wanted to be in there at once,” Rachel said.

“Then the (COVID) rules changes and they could only play in bubbles, so we had a year level bubble, and they could only play in that space.”

The undercover area has been used for bike riding and basketball, soccer – including as a training ground for the school team – and many other organised school and local team sports.

Beverley Hills Primary has weekly sports sessions in addition to PE classes.

These sessions are practice for teams that represent the school at end-of-term local round robin competitions.

“(Training) doesn’t get cancelled now, because we have a space for them to go undercover,” Rachel said.

“Previously, if there had been any sign of rain we’d say, ‘we can’t do that’. When you have such a great space, it enables all your programs to go ahead.”

Beverley Hills Primary has 640 students and is ranked fifth in Victoria for its academic achievements, based on National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results.

The school runs a specialist program, with teachers trained in a variety of disciplines.

A “well-rounded” student education is at the heart of the school ethos.

“Students get to go to the library each week, they get to do performing arts and visual arts each week…the displays we have of our program, what the kids have done, is amazing,” Rachel said.

“The year sixes always do a project each year and leave something. Last year it was a garden that they painted on the walls of the school.”

Students study Mandarin as an additional language and with 90 per cent of students not speaking English at home, there’s support for those who need extra assistance with reading and writing.

 

 

Rachel said the school benefitted from “fabulous” teaching staff, but students flourished because of the community that “values learning” and supports its students at home.

The support of family and friends has been crucial during the past two years, as lessons were moved online due to the global pandemic.

Rachel said the school continued to run its traditional class timetable, with students attending lessons and socialising during breaks via their computers.

This new “remote learning” environment has taken its toll on some students, according to Rachel, with the school employing a nurse to assist with student wellbeing.

She said the addition of a health professional provided another level of support to students.

“We do a wellbeing quiz for the week and if we are alerted by some of the students’ questions, we will call them up, the nurse and I, to see if they want to catch-up during the holidays,” she said. “We could catch-up to make some cookies, or build Lego and do some drawing together. The kids are at the forefront of everything.”

School families have also been encouraged to reach-out if they require assistance and a computer help-line has been installed for technology support.

The pandemic might have upended learning and school activities for Victorians these past two years, but it’s clear the sense of community at Beverley Hills Primary hasn’t wavered.

Rachel said everyone was looking forward to returning to school and while some community events would be postponed, the new shelter provided additional options for managing groups during the pandemic.

“We’ve always wanted to have that shed space to have community events, we have an art show normally in November and we could have that outside now,” she said.

“The shelter has given us the option to do so many more covid safe events.”

As for the staff, they celebrated the shelter’s construction – at the end of last year – in possibly the most fitting style.

“The first night it was done, I bought in all NBA singlets – after school – and made an announcement for those who wanted to play a basketball game,” Rachel said.

“Then we had a staff basketball game. It was hilarious, it was so much fun.”

 

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