After six years of planning and a number of creative fund-raising drives, construction is beginning on extensive new premises in Happy Valley TOMORROW AFTERNOON marks the beginning of a new era for Marymount Primary and Secondary Schools. Hong Kong Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon will officiate at a ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the primary school's new premises in Happy Valley. Marymount Secondary School principal Veronica Ma said the ceremony marked the beginning of construction. The event follows six years of planning by school representatives and negotiations with government departments. The complex will allow the primary school to run 24 classes (four at each level). Facilities will include a school hall, a student activity centre, a computer-assisted learning room, a library, a music room, an arts and craft room, and areas for other activities. Primary school principal Amy Wong, who retires in August, said the full-day curriculum would give the children more time to learn. Construction is scheduled for completion next April and the school should be operational in time for the start of the 2006-2007 school year, which also coincides with the 80th anniversary of the Marymount schools. Improvements will also be made to the secondary school. The site for the primary school sits on a slope above Marymount Secondary School, with which it will be linked by a bridge. A complex will be built between the two schools housing science laboratories, an art room, a conference room, a covered playground, a basketball court and a multipurpose area. Basic construction of the primary school premises is being funded by the government at a cost of $123 million. A committee of alumnae, school representatives and the parent-teacher associations of both schools was established to raise the funds for facilities not included - such as the expansion of the primary school's hall to hold 1,000 people, the installation of air-conditioning and the addition of a computer room. A target of $13 million was set to meet the costs of building the extra facilities. Most of the money raised has been from donors sponsoring rooms within the school. Some rooms will be named after their donors. About $3 million more needs to be raised to meet the target. The fund-raising committee has organised fun fairs, a film gala, raffles and a competition that involved collecting bricks from the demolition site of the old primary school and having them framed into a picture. The winning entries will be displayed in the new building. First-day stamps will be launched tomorrow. The Marymount catholic girls' schools are sponsored by the Christian Life Community, an international lay community with an interest in education. The schools' mission is the development of the student in spiritual, moral, intellectual, physical and social aesthetics. Religious studies, moral education and civic education form part of the school curriculum. 'We train students to be integrated persons of wisdom, care, love and compassion,' Ms Ma said. The schools use English as their teaching medium, and 70 per cent of students at the primary school go on to study at Marymount Secondary School. The arts play an important role in the education of students, and secondary school students are encouraged to explore dance, drama, poetry and painting as a means of self-discovery and expression. Form One students are required to take up a musical instrument of their choice, and both schools have an orchestra. Activities that help students develop interests and cultivate skills and creative flair are encouraged. They take part in territory-wide music, speech, dance and drama festivals and competitions, and have clocked up cabinet displays full of awards. About 200 students take part in the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival every year, with more than 50 per cent of them winning a placement. The Hong Kong Arts Development Council presented Marymount with an award in 2000 in recognition of its achievements in the area of arts education. Scientists from the United States-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited the school this year to train teachers and students to use technology to solve problems. Next week, a group of Form Two students will represent Hong Kong at the Odyssey of the Mind (OM) world finals in the United States. The OM is an international educational programme that fosters creative and problem-solving skills through teamwork. 'Since the introduction of this annual programme in Hong Kong in 1995, students have won numerous awards for their creativity,' Ms Ma said. The OM programme in Hong Kong is jointly run by the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau and the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups.