Damascus College will take on the historic Saint Brendan's Primary School from next year, following the school's official closure. The Dunnstown school held a special celebration on November 25 to recognise 161 years of education on the same site. The Diocese of Ballarat Catholic Education Office announced the change at the celebration, with the Mount Clear secondary school to take on the Ti Tree Road site in 2024, initially using it for all year levels. "This is a rebirth for the school, it's exciting- and Catholic education will continue there," Damascus principal Steven Mifsud said. "One of the first groups to use it will be the year sevens for a reflection day. We estimated it can hold 80 to 100 students at a time. "We'll do some training days for teachers down there, exam revision, lectures. There are also opportunities for the year 10 Hands On Learning Program." Mr Mifsud said many metropolitan schools now had a country campus where year 8 or 9 students went for leadership and life-skills studies. This included Geelong Grammar's Timbertop campus. "There is a possibility we could do this at Dunnstown," he said. "There are industries and reserves within walking distance - and the school itself has been meticulously taken care of. A lot of love has been put into it. "We'll explore this over the next 12 months and by 2025 we'll have a clearer idea of what we'll do." Former pupil Sheila White, 100, has seen her Dunnstown school go through three of its four name changes plus a closure already. Sheila (nee Young) - who is believed to be Victoria's oldest holder of a drivers licence - spent the afternoon recalling her early years at Saint Brendan's. "I started in Grade 1 in what would have been 1929. There was no Prep back then," the Millbrook centenarian said. "I finished in Grade 8 when I did my Merit Certificate. Sister Magdalene made me dux of the class. "I remember a lot of concerts. I remember them because they always got me to play a man." Sheila's brother Jeff and sister Essie also went to the Ti Tree Road school. At almost 101 years of age she was also able to reel off the names of almost all of the children in one of her class photos. She said all of her teachers during the era were nuns. "I had Sister Brendan from grade 1 to 4 - and learned piano," she said. "Our uniform was a navy blue pinafore. "The school had a lot of children too " During the 1920s and 1930s Dunnstown was home to a large distillery and a thriving dairy industry - employing many local families. The principal said six generations of the Leonard family had been enrolled at the school - while there had been at least one member of the Begbie family attending for 60 unbroken years. In 2023 the school shrunk to 11 children - with three of them in Year Six - and no Foundation students coming through the ranks in 2024. Principal Inez French said the eight remaining students would all move to Saint Alipius in Ballarat East. "The parents wanted to keep the Saint Brendan's kids together," she said. "They've already been transitioning into the new school." Ms French is also the principal at Saint Marys in Clarkes Hill - which at 19 students, was definitely staying open. "Saint Mary's has fluctuated between 14 and 21 children for many years," she said. "It's a very stable school population." West Moorabool ward councillor Tom Sullivan believed the demise of Saint Brendan's began with a decision made almost 60 years ago. "The seeds were sown during the 1967 drought," the Millbrook farmer said. "Ballarat almost ran out of water so Bungal Dam was built. We call it Lal Lal Reservoir now. "The state government of the day put it in without consulting local people and because of the danger of septic waste entering the water table that ran into the dam, these small towns east of Ballarat were just not allowed to grow. "Bungaree lost its Catholic school more than 20 years ago - and now Dunnstown has lost its school. "These small towns have paid the price for Ballarat's water." It is understood the Dunnstown school began in 1859, in a shed opposite the Killarney homestead near Mount Warrenheip. In 1861, two acres of land was set aside for a future Dunnstown church - and a year later the shed school moved there with 36 students and one teacher. In 1891 the Josephine Sisters took over the school, which by then was known as Saint Mary's. It was the first of four name changes. Saint Brendan's church was built next door in 1905 - and the school changed its moniker to match in 1929. A new brick school was built in 1952 - but took the name Our Lady of Fatima. The last nun - Sister Lawrence - retired in 1980, when lay teachers took over operations. It switched back to Saint Brendan's in 2006 to honour the centenary of the parish church next door.