Like many of the 300 people who turned out for the Port Germein Primary School’s swansong on Thursday night, the Schulz and Atkinson families have stories to tell.
Veronica Atkinson (nee Schulz), of Stirling North, outlined how she attended the school while living at Baroota.
She was related to the late David Atkinson who provided the Akky Award to the school for academic excellence for about 20 years.
David Atkinson was school bus driver for 26 years.
Veronica’s mother Mary Schulz had three children who attended the school, Kevin, Veronica and Kathryn, as well as three grandchildren of Kevin’s, Marc, Michelle and Timothy.
“The grandchildren’s names are on the Akky Award,” Mary said proudly.
David Atkinson’s son, John, also attended the school while living at Port Germein.
The school closed on Friday after 132 years’ service as the community finally accepted that dwindling enrolments had made the campus unviable.
Old scholars and friends reminisced over a meal and during tours of the classrooms on Thursday, led by master-of-ceremonies and ex-student Brenton Hobart who rang the school bell to kick off the event.
Among the guests were Viktor and Heather Schwarze who journeyed from Naracoorte to be at Viktor’s old stamping ground.
And Alwyn Mudge polished the foundation plaque, showing that his skills as a former groundsman were still with him.
Port Pirie-based regional education director Terry Sizer chatted with Jeannette Valente whose three children once sat in the classrooms.
“Parents and the Governing Council chose to close the school because the numbers had got to four or five students,” she said.
“They took advice from the staff that really it would be better for the children to go to a place where they had more of a choice to interact with children of their own age and year levels and perhaps have access to a broader range of curriculum activities.
“It is a sad decision for any community, but they always make these decisions in the interests of the students.”
The town has shown interest in future uses for the site which will continue to be host a playgroup for two days a week.
BITTERLY DISAPPOINTED AT CLOSURE
Chairwoman of the Governing Council Emma Nunan is bitterly disappointed, but said the closure was inevitable.
“It is something that the Governing Council had been fighting against,” she said.
“We made the decision. It would probably have gone to a Minister’s inquiry and come back with a recommendation to cease anyway. It has been a long, long road.”
Emma chatted with Jo Hurley, who lives across the road from the school.
Jo’s partner Nathan Ryan was a fifth-generation student at the campus in his younger days.
Jo was nursing her son Connor Ryan, aged eight months, who she said would have been a future contender to enrol at the school if it had continued.
At least Connor will attend playgroup at the site.
And then the school bell rang for the last time.
Principal Luke Davis said it was a sad day when Gladstone Primary School shut its doors for the last time.
“Everyone understands that it needed to happen and that it is in the best interests of the kids,” he said, standing beside just a handful of students in the playground.
“Everyone has been committed to the school for so long that you pause and realise that it is being done for the right reasons.
“It was a fantastic school and well-resourced.”
Luke will transfer his employment to Port Pirie West Primary School next year.
Former principal Bob Yarrow joined the bitter-sweet farewell festivities on Thursday night.
He administered four classes comprising about 80 students from 2000 to 2008.
“I have lots of memories about this place. It is fantastic. I was reminiscing with lots of kids who I taught years ago,” he said.
“I taught German, gardening and physical education.”
Some estimates of the enrolment in the school’s heyday were as high as 100 students.
Master-of-ceremonies and ex-student Brenton Hobart said the crowd was “not bemoaning the closure, but celebrating what was”.
The celebrations began with the Welcome to Country, recited by student Jayden Peabody in his last official duty.