Floods fail to dampen learning

Tteachers Naomi Marshall, Pam Caley and Amanda Charlton and new kindergarten student Jack Marshall.

Media interest in the floods may have receded, but staff and students of Lightning Ridge Central School are far from high and dry.

In scenes reminiscent of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, staff have been commandeering all sorts of vehicles to get themselves to class.

Helicopters, boats, quad bikes and four-wheel drives have helped ferry staff across swollen rivers to ensure the school opened despite the outback town being almost cut off by an inland sea.

And for some students, home schooling has been the only option with NSW State Emergency Services personnel helping deliver lessons around the outlying areas.

Lightning Ridge Central principal Chris Tome, who drove kilometres through floodwaters to prepare his school for the new year, praised the efforts of dedicated staff determined not to miss their first day.

"It is absolutely amazing just what some of our staff who normally travel from surrounding properties did," Mr Tome said.

"In contrast to her usual dusty drive, assistant principal, Penny Lehman actually travelled by boat across a lake that has recently filled in one of her property's former sorghum paddocks.

"Three other teachers were ferried to work by helicopter."

He said secondary deputy principal Naomi Marshall, PD/Health/PE teacher Amanda Charlton and assistant principal Pam Caley lived on a property north of Lightning Ridge that had been completely isolated by the swollen Narran River.

They had been picked up by helicopter for work on Monday, housed during the week in town by the Teacher Housing Authority and then flown home each Friday since term started on February 7.

Mr Tome said the school's administrative manager, Dayle Murray, had only been able to get to work for the first time on 21 February and still had to travel through a large amount of water.

She was travelling through the water on a quad bike and then being met on the other side by a car and changing in town, he said.

While initially about 12 of the Central School's 370 students were unable to attend, there were now just four who were still marooned, Mr Tome said.

However for a group of students from Grawin, the school bus now had to leave 75 minutes earlier, at 6.30am, because of all the flood detours.

Mr Tome said the school had used internet, email, fax and the SES to get lessons to those who were cut off.

"I can't praise the SES enough, they were really good in terms of getting lessons to isolated kids and getting staff here," he said.

Lightning Ridge Central is one of more than 120 western division public schools that started a week after their eastern counterparts.

Photo: Teachers Naomi Marshall, Pam Caley and Amanda Charlton and new kindergarten student Jack Marshall. Photo by Helena Hodso.


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