The school building that built a community - Education Matters Magazine
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The school building that built a community

Impressively constructed over just two years, one of Victoria’s most advanced and largest ‘super schools’, Greater Shepparton Secondary College (GSSC), officially opened on Friday, 11 February 2022.

With 2,223 children currently enrolled, the college is set to be Victoria’s largest high school campus in a few years, thanks to its 2,700 student capacity and innovative facilities.

“Greater Shepparton Secondary College is a pioneering facility that raises the bar for education construction,” said Tom Cumming, Senior Project Manager of commercial construction company, Hansen Yuncken, which delivered the project.

“Its three ‘neighbourhoods’, double gymnasium and Enterprise and Innovation Centre presented a number of complex challenges, including a fast tracked timeline.”

The project called for demolition of the old Shepparton High School, which began in January 2020, to allow for the completion of five new buildings, refurbishment of a heritage schoolhouse and extensive landscaping to be delivered by January 2022 – in just two years.

“Delivering the project at this speed required advanced construction practices and close relationships with the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) and stakeholders.”

With more than 300 people working on the project at the height of construction, Hansen Yuncken was able to engage local contractors like Shepparton based Watters Electrical, to educate 95 local trainees and apprentices during the project.

“It’s important to us that we add to local financial and knowledge economies. The skills our local partners have earned with us will stay in Shepparton and help inform future construction in the area,” said Cumming.

Beyond developing the local construction industry, Hansen Yuncken was also able to create opportunities to employ residents living with disability, to plant beautiful established trees across the site.

Social enterprise ConnectGV, which supports employment opportunities for people living with disabilities, was brought on board to help fill three positions through its Billabong Garden Complex initiative. The money paid to ConnectGV for the project has since allowed them to provide meaningful long-term employment for workers within their nursery complex.

With Hansen Yuncken staff, local subcontractors and client teams working on one site, COVID safety precautions were a high priority. Hansen Yuncken partnered with Incolink to deliver twice weekly Rapid Antigen (RA) testing on site, which also helped ease the burden on local health services.

Hansen Yuncken were the first construction company in Victoria to undertake on-site RA testing, with GSSC being the first project where this was rolled out. This, along with a number of allied precautions, earned the team a COVID-19 Gold Standard Accreditation.

“Despite the behemoth scale of the new campus, I have heard various members of the team remark that it has been one of the cleanest construction sites they have ever worked on,” he said. “This is testament to a huge team effort across the board to take the COVID-19 situation, and the health and safety of one another, seriously. The entire team should feel very proud.”

“Having operated in Shepparton for 97 years, Hansen Yuncken has deep roots in the community, making the GSSC project particularly significant to its team,” Site Manager Graeme ‘Spanner’ Spence said.

“I’ve lived in Shepparton all my life and went to South Tech’s McGuire Campus as a kid. My wife and two daughters also went to Shepparton High and now my grandson will go to Greater Shepparton Secondary College. It’s an honour to have helped build this amazing new school for him and his classmates,” he said.

Working for a company that gives back at a local level was important to Spence, who has been involved in building Victorian communities from the ground up, including council, hospital and farming developments, along with bushfire rebuilding efforts.

“Like so many communities, Shepparton has been doing it tough during the pandemic. It’s been rewarding to be part of a business that supports local causes,” Spence said.

“The Greater Shepparton Secondary College is a pioneering facility that will help shape the future of Shepparton, starting today. It does so with a built-in legacy of upskilling local construction professionals, providing jobs for people living with disability and helping families and youths in need,” Cumming concludes.

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