Friday , January 17 2020
Coutts Crossing Public School students take part in Gillwinga Public School's crazy sock day fundraiser for the NSW Rural Fire Service. Image supplied by NSW Department of Education

Schools adapt in the face of adversity

Catastrophic bushfire conditions have disrupted so many lives with damage to property and loss of life. Major school events and excursions were also impacted during the crisis.

The state of emergency in NSW this week due to bushfires saw the closure of more than 350 schools on Tuesday with many schools forced to cancel or postpone events and school excursions planned for the week.

As some schools were forced to close, other schools opened their doors to communities affected by the fires.

The Year 5 and 6 Premier’s Debating Challenge finalists were due to meet at a Stanwell Tops camp this week for a debating championships festival.

Reigning champion Hastings Public School was to join nine other schools including Glenbrook Public School, Walcha Central School and Deniliquin North Public.

However, unpredictable weather conditions and uncertainty for students to safely travel to and from Stanwell Tops forced organisers to replace the camp with a week-long online tournament.

The debating teams will now get the chance to debate each other using video conferencing technology available at their school, with some teams to debate face-to-face where possible.

Year 12 formals were also affected by the bushfires with many school communities forced to reschedule the end-of-year celebrations.

Chatham and Wingham high schools and Bowraville Central School were just a few of the schools who have rearranged their plans.

School excursions were also impacted as planned trips, including overnight excursions, were cancelled as safety concerns became paramount.

Mullaway Public School, located on the Coffs Coast, abandoned plans for a Sydney and Canberra excursion. The two-night trip has been rescheduled for later this month with a new itinerary and experiences for learning.

South Grafton Public School experienced a similar situation with a Year 6 trip to Sydney now reorganised to head north to Brisbane to avoid the fires around Port Macquarie.

While schools were forced to shut down during the week, Gillwinga Public School in South Grafton had a temporary enrolment lift after welcoming in students and staff from Coutts Crossing Public School.

Gillwinga Public had also opened its school hall to Coutts Crossing families when the fire danger escalated.

The Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell, praised school leaders and their communities in Parliament this week, thanking them for offers of help and support to schools affected by the crisis.

“It’s a true testament of the strength of regional communities that in times of adversity, we come together to help those that need it most,” Ms Mitchell said.

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