Cyclone fails to put stop to learning

Alexander ScottNorth West Telegraph
Teachers Ann and Paul Westerink with students of Strelley Community School
Camera IconTeachers Ann and Paul Westerink with students of Strelley Community School Credit: Picture: Alexander Scott

Tropical cyclone Veronica was not enough to dampen the spirits of Strelley Community School, with classes continuing to run after staff and students were evacuated last month.

The JD Hardie Youth Zone became a makeshift learning centre for students after the category 3 system took its toll on the Pilbara and road closures cut children and teachers off from their regular campus, 60km east of Port Hedland.

Teacher Ann Westerink said when a cyclone approached and a blue alert was issued, the school was forced to leave to Port Hedland.

“This is the first time in seven years they haven’t been able to return in a decent period of time,” she said. “The JD (centre) offered their location free of charge.

“Their mission is the same as ours, which is keep the kids safe and provide space for those that need it the most.”

Mrs Westerink said parents, teachers and students collectively wanted to keep the school open after the road closures.

“Teachers want them in school, they want to be in school, and their parents want them in school” she said.

Justine Esmonde JD Hardie Supervisor with students and staff of Strelley Community School
Camera IconJustine Esmonde JD Hardie Supervisor with students and staff of Strelley Community School

Since opening at JD Hardie Centre on March 27, there have been between 11 and 23 students a day with ages ranging from four to 19.

The school also offers a ‘Two Way Learning Program’ that incorporates traditional learning from community Elders combined with western teaching.

“They go into the bush, and the Elders tell the students what they are going to be learning about because they know way more about the bush than us, so they might as well do the teaching.”

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