Rising from the ashes: Wytaliba school reopens after deadly bushfire

Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks says hello to a student at her rebuilt local primary school.
Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks says hello to a student at her rebuilt local primary school.

Barely three months after Wytaliba's primary school was largely demolished by one of last year's deadly bushfires, students have returned to class in a gleaming new set of buildings.

Local MP Adam Marshall, who toured the school on Friday with Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, said the new facility is actually far superior to its wrecked predecessor.

"As they always say the phoenix rises from the ashes and in the case of Wytaliba this school is a bigger and better school than what the community previously had," he said.

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The Member for the Northern Tablelands, who visited the devastated community one day after the fire tore it to bits, had the Education Minister on the blower the same weekend.

Reconstruction was lightning fast, with Wytaliba and Bobin primary schools now NSW's fastest built schools ever.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said contractors worked around the clock through Christmas holidays to get the job done in just three months.

"It was really important from the day after the fire passed through to give the community that assurance that we would rebuild because I know how much the school really is the heart of the community," she said.

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The reconstruction cost the state taxpayer two million dollars; just one building at the school was salvagable. Government constructed two new classrooms, a new admin building, new play equipment, a new library, new amenities block and an undercover learning area, plus solar panels and sundries.

Glen Innes Severn mayor Carol Sparks said it was a major symbol of support for the community,.

"It's a statement to say we're not gone, we're not going, we are here - and we care about our children most. Above all else we care about our children," she said.

But while the school may have been built back better, Wytaliba itself still lies in ruins, she said. And while praising the efforts of the Department of Education she said other government organs had been too slow to help.

"Children need houses; they need their homes.

"It's great, I'm very, very pleased with the Education Department. They started work in early January and they haven't stopped. They're so enthusiastic. It's so good to see that.

"But the kids have got to go home so they've got to get across the river and then they get to their home which is at the moment a tent or a caravan. Or it's not here, it's in town.

"Their home life has been severely disrupted and I worry for their mental health care."

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the department has already provided a pair of councilors for the community, and committed to maintain mental health support for the long run.

"It's important that we provide more than just the bricks and mortar. We need to really wrap our arms around these kids and their families.

"We know that some of the scars aren't going to heal easily or quickly. This is going to be a long-term effort to support this community and that will include any relevant counseling support that they ask for."

The Australian Defence Force will within a fortnight install a temporary Bailey bridge to replace a makeshift ford that currently serves as the main route into town, Adam Marshall said.