Cowwarr Primary’s story of success

Left to right: Cowwarr Primary School students Lexi, 6, Ethan, 7, Lukas, 8 and Tom, 8.

Stefan Bradley

More than two years after Cowwarr Primary School burnt down in a fire, the new building in its place for its 23 students has become a fantastic community success story.

“It was late January 2020 and the kids and staff came back to school for the first day. I remember saying to one of the staff members and I said, ‘school is going to be really good this year’,” Cowwarr Primary School principal Albie Fitt said.

“It was that night, very late at night that I got a call that the school was on fire due to an electric fault.”

Mr Fitt said he was in tears after the fire, and pondered whether this would be the end of Cowwarr Primary School.

“We did welfare checks for the staff and students, but the community wanted to know what they could do for us,” he said.

Thanks to the community coming together, the kids only missed three days of schooling.

They sat their classes in Heyfield for a couple of months and returned to Cowwarr in temporary buildings after that.

“During that time, we spoke to architects, had input from parents, staff and students, and the new building came out of the ashes from there,” Mr Fitt said.

Staff and students finally moved into their new school facilities in the middle of 2021, built at the same site where the old building was, which had been built in the 1960s.

The new facilities were built to remind the community of the old building, and with improvements allowing better technology, insulation, and more space for school assemblies, concerts and recess. The walls and floors are coloured to match the school uniforms.

Parents and grandparents of current students walk to school and see reminders of their old place of learning, but they’re pleased to see the upgrades.

Mr Fitt said it vitally important that the temporary buildings and the new facility were at the old location.

“The key was to get everybody back at the school site, because the trauma was (eased) by being back at that location,” he said.

“It was mentally more difficult during the period of time we were at Heyfield. People were driving to a different place away from their home.

“But once (the students) were back here, they thrived. We’ve had no problems with absentees and the educational outcomes have been good. It’s a fantastic reflection of the school community, who understood the team mentality.”

Mr Fitt said everyone got on board to help.

“We had every family here, we had community members moving furniture into the new building. It’s thanks to the passion of the people that got together – the parents, the teachers and the students – that the new school building is here and is a positive resource and icon for the town,” he said.

School student Ruby, 9, said she “really liked” the new building and loved living in Cowwarr.

“I like that everyday I come in and all the teachers and kids say hi to me,” Ruby said.

Cowwarr Primary School is giving back to the wider community with the return of the school’s Gumboot-a-thon on Friday, June 17 in partnership with Uniting Sale. At 10am, students and the wider community will walk around the block for two hours in their gumboots to raise money for the homeless.

Contact the school for more information and to help them beat their $2000 target.

Cowwarr Primary School principal Albie Fitt. Photo: Stefan Bradley

Cowwarr Primary School Principal Albie Fitt. Photo: Stefan Bradley

Left to right: Cowwarr Primary School students Ruby, 9, Chloe, 9 and Lachlan, 10.
Photo: Stefan Bradley

What was left after the fire.Photo: Contributed

The school on fire. Photo: Contributed

School burnt from electrical fault. Photo: contributed.

The Cowwarr students in the portable classroom before the new school was built. Photo: Contributed