The rebirth of their local public school was the good news one tiny town needed after a tough few years.
When students return to Pooncarie Public School today, they won’t be unpacking their bags after six weeks off. Instead, the seven local students will be the first in the classroom since 2013.
The school, in the tiny town 145 kilometres north of Mildura, was placed in recess six years ago when the enrolments fell to just two students.
For local mother Katie Robinson, the concept of a daily 170-kilometre commute with her son was difficult.
“Between the [closed] school, and the drought, and the river, I wasn’t sure Pooncarie would still exist. It’s been a very depressive time,” Ms Robinson said.
The announcement that the school would reopen had raised the community’s spirits.
“It’s given the whole town a buzz,” she said.
New principal Alison King has established partnerships with Palinyewah Public School, which the Pooncarie students had been making a two-hour commute to attend.
Director, Educational Leadership for the Far West region, Peter Macbeth, said that partnering with Palinyewah and other local schools would broaden opportunities for the students.
“This collaboration is about making sure these students get the same opportunities as any other school,” Mr Macbeth said.
The schools already had plans for joint swimming and sports carnivals, as well as sharing professional learning and planning workshops.
Ms King, a teaching principal, said the first day brought nervous excitement.
“I’m basically starting from scratch. I’ll be doing the teaching, all the school plans and paperwork,” Ms King said.
The former Broken Hill North assistant principal said she was looking forward to “getting down there, and teaching the kids”.
“I was involved in the community in another role, just after the school had closed. I saw the passion the parents had, how well the community worked,” Ms King said.
The school’s rebirth is also expected to help the 16 School of the Air students living within 100 kilometres of Pooncarie.
Students would have the chance to attend classes at Pooncarie Public School once a week, or to complete their School of the Air work alongside their classmates.