SNEAK PEEK: Ballina's $50 million 'school of the future'
WHEN students were asked what they wanted to see at the new $50 million Ballina Coast High School they said a cafe, separated toilets and soft toilet paper.
But what has been delivered is so much more.
Solar power, smart temperature systems, elevators that talk to you, a video wall plastered with screens showing what's happening in the school and community - these aren't things you would normally associate with a public high school.
But principal Janeen Silcock said even after four years of work, the new facilities had even brought tears to teachers' eyes.
The new high school consolidates the previous Ballina High School and Southern Cross High School and has a total of 63 new classrooms and six learning spaces.
"All our classrooms are open with breakout rooms for students who may struggle with noise levels or interactions ... it's very much no halls, no walls," she said.
"There are learning hubs so every day our students meet with one person in groups of 15 and they see that same person every day of their schooling life from Years 7-12.
"We've designed our curriculum so our students start in Year 10 the way it will progress through to Year 12. They can be accelerated and if they are an outstanding student and start tucking away units for the HSC far earlier."
She said the curriculum was inspired by schools around the world.
"It's about raising good men and women who will go out to the world and contribute meaningfully to the community," she said.
"We have a new building but it's what goes on in the building that matters."
The school currently hosts 850 students and has had to turn people away to accommodate in-zone students.
Education Minister Rob Stokes and Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin visited the new facility on Wednesday.
Mr Stokes said the new school will act as a "home away from home".
"It's a school of the future, we are looking at something that is the cutting edge of innovation for all of education for not just Australia but in the world," he said.
Mr Franklin said students were going to experience "a visionary style of learning that will make them the envy of all the students in this region".
"The open plan learning is incredible. The fact that we don't have classrooms now as we used to understand them - we don't have rows of chairs and a blackboard and a teacher standing up there dictating at you what you will learn today. It's visionary leadership for the 21st century and we have it at the centre of our educational establishments here in Ballina."
Ballina MP Tamara Smith said as a former teacher she was "very jealous to see what the teachers have to work with".
"It's incredibly supportive of young people and I think they are going to feel wonderful which is important for learning," she said.
Ballina's new indoor sports centre on the school grounds will be completed later this year.
Byron Bay and Lennox Head Public School upgrades are also both due to be completed later this year.