An emotional goodbye for Wollombi Public School

By Jessica Willard Dec. 18, 2014, 10:01 a.m.

An emotional goodbye for Wollombi Public School
Wollombi Public School students Atticus, Phoenix, Annalisa, Daniella and Maya joined principal Michelle Murphie and librarian Deanne Baker in ringing the school bell for the final time.
Wollombi Public School students Atticus, Phoenix, Annalisa, Daniella and Maya joined principal Michelle Murphie and librarian Deanne Baker in ringing the school bell for the final time.

The final roll-call at Wollombi Public School took place on Wednesday as schools across the state closed their doors for the end of year.

Unfortunately for Wollombi’s five students, there would be no going back next year after the Department of Education announced the school’s permanent closure on November 11.

While department representatives had labelled Wednesday a celebration of the school’s 162-year history, parents agreed that there was nothing celebratory about the closure.

“This is a very difficult day for all of us,” P and C president Lindy Williams said.

“The only thing we want to celebrate today is the people who have made this school what it is.”

Ms. Williams was referring to the school’s librarian, music and arts teacher Deanne Baker, who has taught at the school for over 20 years.

Mrs. Baker joined the students and principal Michelle Murphie in ringing the school bell for the final time, among a sea of tears and heartfelt emotions as well as a symbolic releasing of butterflies.

The announcement of the school’s closure came almost a year to the day since the department first began a consultation process with the school community.

P and C members quickly formed the Wollombi Save Our School (SOS) committee in an effort to rally support, but despite a passionate campaign, the department claimed consistent low enrolments were the reason it would close.

Three students will now attend Laguna Public School, located eight kilometres away, while two will travel to Cessnock’s St. Philip’s Christian College.

The Wollombi P and C together with the SOS committee have now formed the Wollombi School Community Trust (WSCT), turning their efforts on keeping the heritage-listed school building in the hands of the community.

Parent Frank Ganino said that the trust is currently making an application to the Department of Education to maintain the school building for the use of a community centre of learning and education.

At Cessnock City Council’s December 10 meeting, Greens councillor James Ryan moved that council write to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and opposition spokesperson for education, Ryan Park, in an effort to keep the building used for Wollombi School in public hands.

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