Twelve months after a fire ripped through Glenroi Heights Public School, students and staff opened up about that fateful night and the year spent trying to piece everything back together.
Zac Cullen was just a few weeks away from finishing year four when he woke on the morning of December 6, 2022 to the devastating news.
"It was one of the times where I didn't like going to school," he recalled.
"I went to put on my uniform so I could get ready, but then my uncle said I wasn't going to school because it burnt down."
The library and administration building bore the brunt of the blaze and both were destroyed as a result.
Wellbeing coordinator Dylan Kearns described them as the heart of the school.
"Reflecting back, you don't realise how integral that was," he said.
"It's the main entrance. Now it's a big, giant hole in the centre of the school."
The night of the fire
Unbeknownst to Zac, his classroom had been spared and so his thoughts quickly turned to the fate of their class pet.
"I was so shocked and scared because we had a bunny and I thought that he was in the fire," he added.
Teacher Kirstie Tyerman got a call from her sister's partner in the middle of the night telling her the school was on fire.
Just like Zac, her first thoughts were about the class pet.
"I remember being more worried about the rabbit than anything else," she said.
Luckily for all involved, a firefighter managed to rescue the animal which retired from school life and now resides at Ms Tyerman's home.
The initial experience Mr Kearns was much different than his colleague's.
He remembered waking in the morning to a message inviting him to an all-staff breakfast.
"So I was actually cheering," he said.
Then he saw the hundred other messages about the school buildings burning down and his state of mind quickly changed.
The mood amongst staff at that breakfast was "sombre and quite surreal" with many a tear shed according to Ms Tyerman.
"We have a lot of staff who came here as kids or have been here a long time so it was really emotional," she added
"A lot of people lost a lot more than a building."
But staff battled through the pain and quickly kicked into action.
Tegan Davis had only been appointed principal a few months prior to the fire.
Suddenly, she was faced with her first major crisis.
"I was watching thinking 'what's the next plan', how do we look after the kids and the community," she said.
With holidays around the corner and the school year finished sooner than expected, staff rallied.
From the Christmas concert, to daily activities on Glenroi Oval, Ms Davis' goal was to make sure a semblance of normality remained.
"It feels like it was such a long time ago, but it really wasn't," she said.
"We wanted to give a message that everything is okay and that we'll get through it."
During the school holidays, cranes were brought in and debris removed.
Ms Davis took note of how contractors worked "around the clock" to make sure they were ready to go for the beginning of term 1.
'Our new normal'
Daily routines were one of the first things to change.
From needing to re-stock the supply room, to phone lines not working, life was anything but ideal.
For Ms Tyerman, it was the "up and down" internet connection which saw her struggle most.
"It was like running on internet from 15 years ago," she said.
"It has been a lot of change, but there's been lots of really great opportunities to do things differently; to use spaces differently and think outside the box."
Ms Davis praised the work of her staff whose "incredible" ability to adapt helped the school get through the past 12 months.
"I think this is our new normal," the principal added.
What comes next?
The school has certainly come a long way.
There is now a functional staff room, library and admin building. Plans are also in place to rebuild bigger and better.
A notice of works to demolish the concrete slab which has laid bare for 12 months has been submitted. That is expected to take place during the summer school holidays.
The school was also notified it could move ahead with project planning for the new permanent buildings.
"It's really, really exciting," Ms Davis said.
"Our patience is really strong and everyone can see the next step coming."
While the principal is looking forward to seeing her school rebuilt, nothing makes her prouder than seeing students mature and learn.
It's hard to imagine anybody embodies this more than the soon-to-be year 6 student Zac who now loves waking up and coming to class.
"There's no more bad Zac, no more Zac that does bad decisions," he said.
"I feel like I'm doing good decisions right now."
Shortly after the fire, arrests were made in relation to how the blaze began.
On November 20, 2023, a 13-year-old boy who set fire to the school was given a two-year sentence with a two-month non-parole period. He will be eligible for parole on December 12, 2023.
During sentencing, Magistrate David Day said: "You will be out before Christmas, you will be on parole, you will be supervised."
"You are being given an opportunity to get yourself sorted out."