Driving up to Bobin one week before school is due to start in 2020 is a vastly different experience than it was three months ago, post-bushfires.
After the fires roared through on November 8, the landscape was black and desolate. Now, the trees that are still standing are charred and black, but after rainfall the previous weekend there is water in the dams and 'spray-on green' on the paddocks.
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The sight of colour and water lifts the soul, and seems a metaphor for recovery not just of the environment but for its inhabitants.
An important part of the community's recovery is the rebuilding and re-opening of Bobin Public School, where everything but the school's library was razed to the ground by the fires.
One week shy of the three month anniversary of the catastrophic event, the school has been rebuilt and is set to reopen on time on Wednesday, January 29 for the first day of term one.
It has been a major feat of determination and co-ordination by the NSW Department of Education to ensure the children would be able to return to their school on time in 2020.
Bobin teacher Sarah Parker credits the department's asset manager for the region, Warren Blissett, for making it happen.
"He told me that normally a rebuild like this takes five to seven months and they've made it happen in three months," Sarah said. "He has sacrificed a lot of personal time to make this happen.
"I also have to thank Matt Hill. He put in an extraordinary effort throughout the rebuild.
"There was a delay in the beginning because of the asbestos and soil sampling and there's a whole process that has had to happen with that. But even with that delay and the delay of Christmas/New Year shutdown for suppliers, he's managed to pull this amazing feat together. It's a huge amount of work."
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Three demountable buildings have been constructed - the classroom, the admin building and the toilet block. The school's original library still stands, having miraculously survived the bushfires.
Mr Blissett made it his goal to hire local contractors wherever possible to help out the local economy post-fires. One week before opening, the school is still a hive of tradies working furiously to get the site completed - builders, communications teams, electricians, plumbers and landscapers are all working side by side.
A gentle start to school
Sarah said that while the prospect of going back is "quite overwhelming", the children are excited to get back to their 'new' school.
Fifteen of the school's 17 2019 students will be returning in 2020. Two of the children are now living elsewhere and will not be returning to the school.
Being an extremely close-knit community, the teachers, staff and school families have all kept in touch during the holidays.
"Everyone is keeping quiet and trying to recover our energy. We've all got a bit of post traumatic stress. It was a lot to go through, and I think everyone's just been enjoying the holidays and their families," Sarah said.
We'll sit down together and have a chat, we'll walk through the site and we'll see how we're all feeling.Sarah Parker
Conscious of the trauma everyone has experienced, Sarah says it will be a gentle start to the school year. She plans to do a lot of reflective activities for lessons, such as writing, art and drama to help them all process everything.
"We'll sit down together and have a chat, we'll walk through the site and we'll see how we're all feeling," she said.
Thankfully, though November 8 was a school day, there was nobody at school that day. The school's principal, Diane Myer, had a strong gut feeling and closed the school for the day.
"So the children were at home, some dealing directly with fire coming onto their property," Sarah said.
"That huge upheaval and change is something we'll work through. They seemed really good at Wingham Public School (where their lessons continued post-fire), they seemed resilient, but I think sometimes a trauma takes months to settle in, so we'll keep a close eye on them, making sure they feel safe and happy."
The students spent the last six weeks of term in 2019 at Wingham Public School, and it was a very different experience to what they were used to.
"It was good, it had its challenges. Even physically because it's so different being in a big school - the noise level and the sheer volumes of humans on site. But I think they handled it really well," Sarah said.
"It was a good opportunity for them to experience a big school, for those who had never been to one.
"There's good things in both kinds of schooling. Ours is a unique kind of schooling in that it's a small old-style village school, and there are things that we can do there that you can't do in a big school and there's things that you can do in a really big school that you can't do here.
"I think it was good, but we're all really glad to get back here," she said.
Grateful for support
The outpouring of support from communities near and far has been humbling for the school community.
Sarah has been contacted by teachers and ex-teachers around the State who heard about the school's destruction and offered to help replace decades' worth of lost teaching resources.
"What's amazed me is the generosity of everyone. We've had so much support, so much love - donations from community groups, from individuals," Sarah said.
"It makes you feel so connected, that people just want to help out."
One of the donations Sarah mentions in particular is a visit from Gloucester Public School students to deliver dolls they had hand-made to give to their counterparts at Bobin.
"Even the older kids, year six, thought they were terrific," Sarah said.
In among the vulnerability, the fragility and uncertainty that Sarah and her students are feeling is strong resilience, hope and trust that things will be okay.
"I feel positive, I do honestly feel like we've got a lot of support," she said.
"We know the kids so well because we've taught them for years. We all know each other very well, and that helps.
"We'll make the most of it, it will be good, I think."