End of an era for Ballidu

Jo FulwoodCountryman
Ballidu Primary School students Lucy Freestone, 4, Rachel Whyte, 5, Jasmine McGill, 5, and William Freestone, 7, with principal Shannon Wasmann.
Camera IconBallidu Primary School students Lucy Freestone, 4, Rachel Whyte, 5, Jasmine McGill, 5, and William Freestone, 7, with principal Shannon Wasmann. Credit: Daniel Wilkins

It will be the end of an era for the tiny Wheatbelt town of Ballidu, when the doors to its two-room, 95-year-old primary school close for the last time at the end of this school term.

With just five students enrolled this term, principal Shannon Wasmann said while it was sad to see the school close, it was understandable for parents to want greater socialisation and competition opportunities for their children in a larger school.

The school was established at the start of 1922, with enrolments reaching as high as 100 students in the 1970s.

But in stark contrast, Ms Wasmann said she had received no enrolments for 2017.

Ballidu is 200km north-east of Perth, and it is estimated just 50 people now live in the tiny town, which only has a post office, a pub and a Landmark agency.

The general store closed several years ago.

Ms Wasmann said enrolments for the school went from 17 students in 2015, to just four at the start of this year.

“We had another student come to us at the start of term four, which took our numbers to five, but that isn’t enough to provide the necessary socialisation that children need as part of a complete education,” she said. “We have been catering for their needs academically, but unfortunately we can’t find more children for them to play with.”

The five children, who attend kindergarten, pre-primary and Year 1 at Ballidu, will move to Wongan Hills District High School in 2017.

A one-way bus trip could take 45 minutes or longer.

The earliest records show the Ballidu school was opened on September 4, 1922, conducting school in an existing galvanised iron and weatherboard hall situated at the corner of Federation and Baroota streets. School was held there until 1924 when a classroom was built on the site of the present school.

Ms Wasmann said since finding out about the closure decision at the start of term four, she had been transitioning the students to the Wongan Hills school for the past few weeks.

But far from being a sad occasion, the school community has chosen to celebrate the history of the school, and is hoping to encourage the many former students, teachers. employees and parents to come to a closing ceremony on December 17.

The ceremony will start at 2pm with open classrooms, followed by formal presentations and an afternoon tea.

Resources from the school have been distributed to other schools throughout the area.

Any former student, teacher, parent or employee wishing to attend the school’s closing ceremony should contact the school on 9674 1247 or email elizabeth.heavey@education.wa.edu.au.

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