The School on the Hill
The first attempt on record to establish a State School in the area was made by Messrs Wight and Coote on 21st January 1873. They offered to sell the Department a block of land on the corner of Wight and McCracken Streets, complete with a small schoolhouse.
Commercial and residential development clustered around Racecourse Road and down beside the railway line. McConnell Street, McCracken Street and Rankins Road had several shops, but Macaulay Road had only Hardimans Hotel and three shops. The school precinct had Wesleyan and Anglican churches, and later gained the borough hall.
Between 1881 and 1890 the State school's enrolment increased from 230 to 700 pupils, and to over 1,000 before the turn of the century. Overcrowding, classes in shelter sheds or pavilions with canvas enclosures, annexes in church halls and the town hall persisted until the 1920s. Following the Second World War there was a general exodus of families to the outer suburbs, which forced the decreasing attendance at Kensington to its lowest ebb - 451 students in June 1949, which meant half the rooms were not in use. The Department made a decision in August 1950 to establish Central School classes at Kensington and this saw numbers increase again.
In the 1960's several internal renovations took place with the approval to install "artificial lighting" in all classrooms. As numbers rose, the school committee raised concerns about the lack of accommodation for students and by 1971, 120 children were without classrooms. Moves were made to purchase properties between the school and Epsom road and after they had been demolished, three portables were installed. 1972 saw the peak Post War enrolment - 975 pupils in April and there were seven portables on site in July. A new building was completed by the end of 1977. The new classooms were not ready for occupancy at the beginning of 1978, due to lack of furnishings, and it was not until 2nd term that the children were able to vacate the portables and move into their new rooms. In August 1978, the Department authorised the erection of a second building, containing general purpose room, toilets and canteen, together with the remodelling of the old building.
To be continued.............