Rising from the rubble, Chichester Free School’s new home is on the way with the foundations laid at the former convent site in Hunston Road.
A groundbreaking ceremony held last Friday saw guest of honour Lady March presented with flowers, a picture from pupils and a symbolic spade on the building site, accompanied by school governors and students.
Pupils were hand-picked to attend the ceremony from the school’s student premises committee.
Sam Wood, 13, said he couldn’t wait to see it finished.
He said: “I just can’t imagine, in a year, a year and a half, you’re going to have a fully functional school here, you’re going to learn.
“My final year will be in the convent here, I’ll be taking my GCSEs.
“I came here six months ago and saw a massive pile of rubble and I didn’t think it could be turned into what it is now.
“I’m really excited to see it.”
The former Carmelite Convent is being pared down to its brickwork shell before it is re-fitted inside, with the foundations in place for the surrounding classrooms and huge steels outlining an extension to the convent building.
School principal Guy Martyn said there had been a few delays getting started but he felt a responsibility to get things right for future generations.
He said: “It’s fantastic for us to see the development on site. It’s quite different to how it was before work started, the way it was left after the fire. It was damp and derelict and what you would expect from an old building and now it’s stripped back to the glory it had before.
“We’ve got big spaces, classroom spaces and it’s that mix of the ancient and the modern.”
When at full capacity ,including a sixth form, the school will cater for more than 1,200 students aged four to 19.
It is anticipated construction work will be complete ready to move in by September 2018.