Until that moment, there were no hints from Presentation College Windsor that an announcement like this was coming, that the school would close its gates after 147 years at the end of 2020.
But there it was, confirmed in an email sent to parents and students just as the bell had finished echoing off the stone buildings of Victoria’s second-oldest Catholic girls’ school.
It wasn’t long before Rose and her fellow classmates were venting their sadness, anger and frustration in group calls and messages on social media apps House Party and Instagram.
That night, parents had already begun looking at new schools to send their daughters. Everyone was stressed out, Rose said.
“We’re just sort of being torn apart, like all our friendships are going to be broken now,” Rose said. “And we have no choice. It’s not like we’re leaving, we’re being thrown out.”
Kas Thomas, 16, was sent a text message with a screenshot of the email at about 7pm on Monday night. She sat in bed for a long time trying to comprehend it.
“I thought about how my sister, she’s in year six now, she wouldn’t be able to go to the school,” the year 11 student said.
That night, Kas invited over a friend and they stayed up until 1am to talk about it. They discussed being part of the last year 12 class to graduate at the school before it closes. Where would they have their reunion, she wondered.
The next morning, at a school assembly, the atmosphere was grim. Like a funeral, is how Rose described it. Everyone was crying, including the teachers and principal Filina Virgato.
“I didn’t cry until I saw my Italian teacher, she started crying, she’s been there for so long, and I thought about all the teachers, where are they going to go?,” she said.
On the timetable, there were classes for that day. But not many girls chose to attend. Rose went home and did not return on Wednesday, Kas went to class but didn’t stay long.
“I just couldn’t concentrate and my teacher said ‘you can go home’, there were about 100 people signing out at once at the front office,” she said.
Poppy Klose, a year eight student, left school on Tuesday after her dad arranged for her to go home early. There were around eight people left in class for third period, she said.
She found out in a group chat with her friends, where rumours had swirled all night Monday. Her sister Holly, in year seven, was with her at the time.
“She was like ‘oh the school’s closing down’ and I was so shocked, I thought her friends were playing a joke,” Holly said.
As other students were leaving early, Sayuri Sato decided to stay so she could talk about what was going on with her friends.
She learned about the closure when rehearsals for the school musical were cancelled on Monday.
“The classes were very laid back and most of the time the teachers were just giving us advice,” the year eight student said.
“We tried to have fun and be positive.”
On Wednesday, the news came through that the neighbouring boys’ school, Christian Brothers College St Kilda, would accept students in years 10 and 11 from 2021.
It is also investigating whether it can become a co-ed facility permanently.
Rose held out hope that her school could remain open under the Christian Brothers. If that doesn’t happen, she said the students would try to make the best of it at a school that they love.
“That’s what we’re saying on group chat, like stick together and make the most of your time because there’s not really anything else we can do right now,” she said.
Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.
Yan is a reporter for The Age.