SINGAPORE - Schools here have wrapped up their year-end exams and are winding down for the year-end holidays, but Monday (Oct 21) was still a "first day" of sorts for some 1,600 Raffles Girls' School (RGS) students.
The students, along with 180 staff members and 150 invited guests, were at the opening of RGS' new campus at 2 Braddell Rise, the site of the former Braddell-Westlake Secondary School that closed in 2005.
Raffles Institution (RI) is across the road in Bishan. The schools are now connected via an overhead pedestrian bridge linking bus stops on both sides of Braddell Road.
The RGS project, which has been seven years in the making, cost $90 million. It was co-funded by the school and the Education Ministry.
New students will start at the Braddell Rise site in academic year 2020, while current students will finish up the last week of this school year there.
RGS principal and alumna Poh Mun See, 50, said she was glad to have been part of this chapter of the school's journey, from almost start to finish.
She helmed RGS since the end of 2012 - the year the move was first raised - and will step down in December to return to the MOE as a cluster superintendent.
Mrs Poh will be replaced by Madam Haslinda Zamani, former principal of Tanjong Katong Secondary School who is currently a cluster superintendent with the MOE.
Speaking to the media after the opening ceremony on Monday, Mrs Poh said: "Saying goodbye is never easy. But I must say this is a good place in the school's history, or calendar, to hand over the reins to someone else. There are so many possibilities."
While the new campus is about 2.5ha larger than the old location in Anderson Road, Mrs Poh said the new intake of Sec 1 students next year would remain consistent at about 400.
The school has plans to expand a mentorship programme that matches RGS students with pupils of primary schools in the area.
Marymount Convent, First Toa Payoh Primary and Kheng Cheng are three primary schools currently in the programme called Triple C, which stands for care, collaboration and community.
RGS is also considering offering the Raffles Scholarship, alongside RI.
Said Mrs Poh: "There is a requirement for one-to-one matching for the Raffles Scholarship - it was a request for donors. We were not able to do the matching because all our funds went to the new campus, but it is definitely something we're looking at now.
"There are also other means of supporting students that we can consider, like creating our own schemes with other donors."
RGS old girl Peggy Looi, who was part of a team that authored and sold a cookbook to help the school's fund-raising efforts, was there on Monday.
The 57-year-old, who as a student sang with the school choir, said the funds her team raised went towards building the new performing arts centre, which consists of an auditorium and black box with state-of-the-art equipment, among other facilities.
The school also has an innovation hub that provides students with resources such as unmanned vehicles or drones, 3D-printers and research laboratory equipment.
Said Ms Looi, who is now an adjunct lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences: "I'm excited to be coming back and I'm glad the new location is near RI - not for any funny reasons, but because it would be more convenient for the girls."
She explained that when her daughter, also an RGS alumna, was in school, she had to frequently travel to RI for some programmes.
Chinese teacher Zhang Hao, who has spent 22 of her 30 years as an educator teaching in RGS, said she has many fond memories of the old campus, but is looking forward to the fresh start.
Said Madam Zhang: "The staff used to be split into four departments but now there's a new, big, combined staff room. I'm very excited for what's to come."
For 16-year-old Netra N., whose last day of school is this Friday, it was "a bit strange" to see the new campus.
"At the same time, it's sad to leave the old campus because of the specific memories that were made there. The new school takes some getting used to - but at the end of the day, it's about the company you keep," she said.
The 140-year-old school, which had been at its site off Stevens Road since 1959, had to be relocated, as the campus, built for about 1,700 students, was no longer adequate and the land lease was coming to an end.
The school had previously said that being situated opposite RI would also provide for closer collaborations between the two schools.