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At Westside and Bayside, memories packed up in boxes await a new home

Stacks of boxes lined both Bayside and Westside Comprehensive Schools, leaving empty rooms in tow as teachers made final preparations before leaving the schools.

Teachers have sorted through decades of equipment, textbooks and even found completed worksheets filled by students some 30 years ago.

Key staff will now continue to work through the summer to ensure a smooth migration to the new schools.

Walking through an empty Westside and Bayside School brings a sense of nostalgia.

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Art untouched for years remained on the walls, a trophy cabinet still not emptied highlighted the accolades of past, and aged photographs of former students remained pinned on the walls.

The empty classrooms contain decades of memories: from friendships made and lost, academic achievements and stresses, and the educational pathway of a generation.

The move for many teachers, although happily anticipated, comes with a tinge of sadness.

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Generations of Gibraltarians have been taught at these schools, mothers, fathers, children, and some have grown up to return as teachers.

Yesterday teachers taped up boxes and moved them to different rooms ready for collection.

But the work at both schools is still not over.

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The Westside School Library is jam-packed with boxes, so much so, you couldn’t reach a light switch, and the library shelves remain full with books.

Atop the library shelves lay cardboard structures of the Rock created by students as part of a project on pollution.

Boxes were continuously loaded into the Westside gym as teachers packed up everything from science test tubes to costume wigs.

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At Bayside School there was much of the same with rooms filled and locked ready to be moved to the new premises.

Bayside Head Teacher Michael Tavares said he was grateful to all members of staff for their work throughout the moving out process.

The story for Bayside School isn’t ending just yet, with Governor’s Meadow First School temporarily moving in.

“Governor’s Meadow will be taking over half of the school, the other half will be closed off and they will be here for a year while their school in being built,” Mr Tavares said.

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Mr Tavares added that he “can’t wait” and is excited to move into the new premises.

Bayside Deputy Head Teacher Melba Noguera has been at the helm of the migration project for Bayside School.

For Mrs Noguera it has been an “organisational challenge” as well as a challenge to repurpose and recycle items.

“The priority is getting things right so we are fully functional for when the kids get in,” Mrs Noguera said.

The process has been nostalgic for teachers who have uncovered decades old students' notes.

“I’ve kept my personal A Level chemistry stuff that were found in Westside from the 1980s,” Mrs Noguera said.

“It was great to receive my exam that I had done in my handwriting from 30 odd years ago. There have been finds around the school that people have been amused about. There’s history in the paperwork.”

She added that a challenge for some teacher has been letting go of items and in the future she hopes a lesson will be learnt from the move.

Mrs Noguera outlined that teachers should have a dedicated day a year to weed out old items.

“The migration is not just about moving schools, it is about decommissioning one school and commissioning another,” she said.

Everything from the number of bins, to which notice boards should be taken to the new schools has been accounted for.

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“We have wanted it to be as eco-friendly as possible,” Mrs Noguera said.

“If it can be reused we are trying to find homes for its reuse.”

Westside Head Teacher Michelle Barabich told the Chronicle the team has worked hard to ensure the old Westside building will be operational to hand out exam results in August, as well as dealing with the move to the new premises.

It is expected the new schools will be handed over to the Department of Education in mid-August.

For many members of staff today is their last working day before the summer break, but many others will work through the summer.

Westside Deputy Head Teacher Belinda Bautista Smith outlined that it’s a misconception teachers don’t work during the summer months.

She added that for teachers this move has increased workload.

Over the past month Bayside teachers Justine Johnson and Stephanie Brosco Benyunes have been packing their classroom items.

Miss Johnson and Mrs Brosco Benyunes said it would be sad and emotional to leave the Bayside School Building for the last time.

“We are quite excited to get into the new school, it was long overdue,” Mrs Brosco Benyunes said.

Miss Johnson added: “It has been a mixture of emotions everyone is happy and sad at the same time.”

Westside teachers Erica McGrail Barabich and Nikki Bishop said the moving process has been so hectic that they haven’t had the time to reminisce about the school building.

“It’s been a very hectic time, but I am looking forward to the new challenge that lies ahead,” Ms Bishop said.

Mrs McGrail Barabich added: “It has been starting to kick in now and its mixed feelings. There are lots of good memories we are leaving behind as well in the building.”

Pics by Johnny Bugeja