Concern over portable classrooms proposal

September 19, 2015

LAKE Bolac P-12 College could lose two of its portable classrooms as the State Government evaluates dozens of rural schools to help meet demand from growing populations in outer Melbourne.

Principal George Porter told The Spectator that parents had “strong concerns” that removing the classrooms, which have now been incorporated into a larger permanent complex, would “change the school’s culture”.

“The Education Department is looking at whole state and we have been identified as having two portable classrooms. They have sent someone to evaluate them,” Mr Porter said.

“We were told we are on a list of schools that have classrooms in excess of the school’s needs but we have not been notified if they will be removed.”

The Education Department has advised principals across Victoria that they may have to contribute to a plan to use 175 existing classrooms and 125 new classrooms to help provide space for more than 14,000 new students.

Education Minister James Merlino has pledged to minimise disruption and make any changes “fair for all”.

The two classrooms at Lake Bolac that could be uprooted and put on a truck are currently used for primary school classes.

The school has about 90 students, 70 of which are in the primary school, and removing the classrooms could see students sent across to classrooms and toilets designed for older children.

Lake Bolac has also combined its portable classrooms with other permanent buildings to create an enclosed space that includes an assembly hall and a kitchen that was recently refurbished by parents.

Shadow education minister Nick Wakeling said parents and students at Lake Bolac P-12 College were “rightly concerned” about the proposal.

“This move by the Andrews Government will halve the number of primary school buildings on the site,” he said.

“It is essential that any proposed removal of relocatable classrooms consider not just student numbers, but also the impact of removing multiple classrooms in a short period of time will have on the ability of the school to continue to deliver high quality education.

“(Premier) Daniel Andrews needs to ensure that teachers and students are not inconvenienced and that student education is not jeopardised.”

Western Victoria Labor MP Gayle Tierney said the Education Department “will work with the school to minimise disruption, assist with the transition and where possible it moves relocatable classrooms outside of term time”.

Ms Tierney said the “Relocatable Building Program utilises student enrolment data to balance and prioritise the classroom needs of more than 1500 government schools”.

“Relocatable classrooms are transferred from schools which
have more classrooms than required to schools without the classroom capacity to meet growth in student enrolments.

“Unprecedented growth in enrolments across the state and the former Coalition government’s neglect of Victorian schools has put significant pressure on the Department’s relocatable asset base.

“The previous Coalition government failed Victorian students by halving the investment in school infrastructure throughout Victoria.

When the capital budget is cut by more than half, it has a devastating impact on schools and we are now dealing with the fallout from these savage cuts.”