The Masonic Hall of Cheshire Freemasons has been turned into a essential 'pop up' school during the coronavirus lockdown
As what must be the strangest School Term comes to an end, the Staff, Governors, Parents and Pupils from St. Martin's Academy in Chester, can proudly look back at the last few weeks in the knowledge they have been able to get all pupils back to full time education
Head of School Mrs Wenda Smith said: 'As the lockdown eased and we were encouraged to bring more pupils back to school, like colleagues across the country, we planned to bring different year groups in on different days so as to adhere to the social distancing guidance. We then became aware of a kind offer to local charities and/or schools asking if anyone could benefit from using the facility at Cheshire View which temporarily lay empty.
'I visited the venue and immediately said yes. The newly refurbished Freemasons Hall gave the space we needed and in a very short time we had created our own ‘Pop Up’ school. The pupils are very happy here and being able to spread out between the school and the hall meant we could offer all pupils the chance to return to school on a full time basis – everyone did exactly that.'
Cheshire's Assistant Provincial Grand Master Simon Richardson said: 'It was a delight to walk around the pop up classrooms and see how pupils and staff have been able to take full advantage of the facilities. Normally we would be holding Masonic meetings throughout the week but during the pandemic this has all been suspended.
'What better way to see the hall being used than educating local children. When asked what their favourite part was, they have all enjoyed the outdoor spaces so we have agreed to partner with the school in the future for events such as a summer sports day.'
At times of crisis, Chester's Masonic Hall has always come to the fore to help the citizens of Chester. During the first World War the Masonic Hall in Hunter Street was used as a sewing centre for the Cities seamstresses making bed sheets and pyjamas for the infantry returning from the war. During the second World War the Hall was also used as a lecture theatre by Chester Corporation to ensure our citizens made the best use of public allotments in growing crops for the city despite being fire bombed as well as being used as a command centre for the Air Raid Protection group where messengers would ride by bicycle to the centre to provide status of air raids over the city.
Wenda Smith added: 'We wouldn’t have been able to bring so many people back without the generosity of the Freemasons. The facilities have been provided to us at no cost and have made such a difference to what we would otherwise have been able to provide.'
Emlyn Cole Jones, a member of the Board of Directors, concluded: 'Whilst Cheshire View understandably had to cease its normal activities, we wanted to see it put to good use. When we heard a local school felt this would be of interest and then that they had been given permission by the Department of Education, it was full speed ahead to make the space available and turn the leisure venue into three classrooms so all 75 children from Years 2, 4 and 5 were able to resume their full time education up to the end of term. This has been a great team effort and the schools commitment to do the very best for their pupils and staff has been inspirational.'