Community was at the heart of Grace Lutheran Primary School even before it opened in 1971 and as the school celebrates 50 years, it is evident this is still the case.
The school has hosted a myriad of events throughout the year to mark the anniversary, culminating in a gala dinner on October 23.
Principal Trudy Moala says it was a highlight bringing people who had been integral to the school’s formation together with past students, staff and families.
“We had two past principals there, which was really exciting, and then about three past principals of the college, a past director of the creche and kindergarten. With that mix of history in the room as well as the party atmosphere, it was a really exciting evening and celebration. Then of course present families as well and staff,” Mrs Moala says.
Among those present was Juliann Kindred, who was instrumental in the opening of the school.
Her son Christopher was attending Grace Creche and Kindergarten when his teacher, Pastor Joe Stolz’s wife Lorraine, said he needed to attend a primary school rather than a preschool.
Mrs Kindred approached Pastor Stolz to ask if a school could be established, so children attending Grace C&K could progress to a Protestant Christian school on the peninsula.
“This was in the 70s, there was no government funding, there was no support, there was nothing and the pastor basically said if you can find 15 children you can have the church hall. So, off she went and she got the 15 children,” Mrs Moala explains.
After much fundraising, including with the assistance of Scarborough Catholic Parish’s Father Frawley who donated one day’s profit from the Catholic Fun Fair, they had enough to employ a teacher and open the school.
First classes were held on January 25, 1971, at Redeemer Church Hall with Lyn Hauser as teacher-in-charge and 15 Year 1 and Year 2 pupils.
These days, there are 413 pupils and 62 staff on campus.
The first principal, Bruno Matuschka was appointed in 1972 and the first building erected at Maine Rd, Clontarf, the following year.
The school has expanded significantly over the years following the acquisition of five house blocks and the former Agnew Sewing factory site. In 2009, a major refurbishment began and in 2018 the well-known brown and yellow uniform was replaced with royal blue.
Mrs Moala is in her fifth year as principal and recently signed on for another five years. She took on the task of researching the school’s history ahead of the anniversary and said this knowledge would help frame her vision for the school.
“For me, researching the history … I was going to contract that out but once I got into it I thought, ‘no, I’ve got to learn this and ensure some of those early-day values were continued through in our strategic planning for the future’. So, I’ve really enjoyed that,” she says.
Mrs Moala interviewed people from the congregation, searched through the school archives and spoke to establishment families.
“Anybody you talk to, associated with the school, say that it’s child-focused and God’s love is shared. What’s (also) sprung out of that has been community,” she says.
“I don’t think that was intended. It just happened with the right people in the school and the right families and it’s been like that the whole way through.”
The school’s motto is Grow in Grace, and it continues to evolve in terms of the facilities on campus but also the style of teaching.
Mrs Moala says child-focused initiatives would be a big part of the plan for the next five years and the school already had facilities to support that - flexible learning style furniture including laptop lounges, stand-up tables and write-on desks.
“We don’t have 25 desks and chairs, we have innovative furniture, outdoor settings where they’ll flow out to the veranda,” she says.
“The architect didn’t know this, but when he designed the school, he put massive verandas outside every classroom. Through COVID, we’ve been able to spread the children out into fresh air.”
There is also a focus on STEM and performing arts at the school, which has been popular with pupils.
Work has started on a new early learning centre at the Clontarf campus for children aged 2-5 years, which will work alongside Grace Creche and Kindergarten at Redcliffe. It is due to open early next year.