In 1856 there were just three schools on the Peninsula. Each of these was run by the Church of England. Point Nepean had fourteen students, Snapper Point (Mornington) had twenty one students enrolled and Tootgarook Common School (later Rye P.S) had twenty four students enrolled (averaging only six boys and five girls daily).
The Tootgarook Common School No 623 was held in a small limestone building in Lyons Street, Rye, on the site of the current St Andrew’s Anglican Church. The building was the original Mechanics Institutes; it was also used as a church and hall. This building measured 30 feet, by 16 feet 6 inches by 13 feet. When this original building was demolished the stone was used to build the current St Andrew’s Church.
By 1873 this building was quite dilapidated so Mr John Cain, a local farmer began petitioning the Minister of Education for a new school building and site. By now there were 40 children in attendance. Petitioning by local townspeople continued for the next two years.
By 1874 the need for a new school building was urgent as on the 12th of May one of the walls fell down in the one being used and another was dangerously cracked. Mr John Campbell offered a room, attached to the Rye Hotel, for the use of the school. (Campbell Lane, which runs along the back of the shops from Lyons through to Napier St is named in John Campbell’s honour).
Meanwhile correspondence between John Cain and the Education Department was ongoing. At the beginning of 1875 Cain again wrote to the Education Department, telling them that some parents were complaining about sending their children to school next to a public house and that more children would attend school if a new building were erected.
On the 19th June 1875 the Headmaster, Mr Thomas Doyle, became ill and requested fourteen days leave to enable him to travel to see a Doctor. Leave was refused as there was a Doctor available on Saturday mornings at Snapper Point (Mornington).
The conditions for teaching were terrible. The thatched roof of Mr Campbell’s room was leaking and the children were in the damp atmosphere. Cain was adamant that a new building was needed immediately and finally the wheels were put in motion. Discussions had taken place re the site for the new school. The Lord Bishop of the Church of England had refused the site of the current St Andrew’s Church, which had originally been given for the site of a school.
It was suggested by Mr J. Baldwin that the current site in Lyons Street would be suitable, much better than the one discussed at Whitecliffs as this was deemed to be too far from the township of Rye.The Lyon’s Street site was within the town boundaries and had a frontage of 264 feet onto Lyons Street. In total the school grounds were about 2 acres.
The new building would be built with timber and erected near the site where the Old School Building currently stands. The winning tender of 260 pounds, was from a Mr C Davies, of Vine Street, Windsor. On the 27th of September Mr Cain announced the new school building would be ready by the end of October.
On the 20th November 1875, Headmaster Thomas Doyle and his pupils moved into their new school, Tootgarook No.1667.
Although they had moved in, the building was not quite finished and a request was made for opening windows to be installed. The grounds still needed clearing of thick timber. Furniture, books and easels arrived by dray from Dromana, at a cost of 10/- a dray. New maps were requested as those in current use were outdated. Water had to be carted daily by Mr Doyle. Heating, in the form of a new stove and two flues were installed in 1881, also a request was made to sink a well.
By 1884 a request was made to the Education Department asking that all correspondence to the school be addressed to Rye S.S 1667 as the name Tootgarook was no longer in use.
By June 1893 student numbers had dropped and it was suggested that Rye and Rosebud schools should amalgamate or become half time schools. Rye residents organised a petition objecting strongly to this idea.
By 1915 Miss Jensen was installed as Head Teacher and the school numbers went through the roof with the arrival of the four Waack children from Box Hill and the six Jennings children from Camperdown.
Over the years many changes have taken place. In 1946, at the cost of 10 pounds, electricity was connected to the school and in 1947 a request was made to the Education Department that septic tanks be installed at both the school and the school house (old house still standing on the corner of Point Nepean Road and Dundas Street). 1947 also saw the Mother’s Club raise funds for a wireless and film projector. Sadly the school was broken into and the wireless was stolen. Mrs Sullivan lent the school her radio until another was purchased.
During the late 1940’s and 50’s the township of Rye continued to grow. In May1954 a second, prefabricated building was erected which contained a library.
By July 1955 enrolments were at 120. In 1970 school enrolments had increased by 50% on the previous year to 216. In 1972, the Principal, Mr Bill Smith, was chopping fire wood and up to 50 children were sharing a classroom. A portable classroom was allocated to house the preps and new brick toilets were opened in the July. They stood roughly on the site of the basketball court, behind the Prep playground. The old toilets which had stood under the large trees where the big kid’s playground now stands were demolished.
Today the children of Rye enjoy modern facilities. They learn using interactive whiteboards, have access to the internet and enjoy a curriculum which is broad and caters for student’s individuality. They are able to go on excursions, camps and have incursions. They can enjoy sport, art, music, science, computers and library and have small class sizes. Their classrooms are both heated and air-conditioned.
My goodness has Rye Primary has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1875.