Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh is calling on the Minister for Education to urgently review conditions at Koondrook Primary School, which has reached its student capacity and has been ordered by his department to stop taking enrolments from students who live in NSW.
Mr Walsh said this growing school needs more space for classes and he is asking the Minister to overturn his Department’s decision to lock out NSW students and instead fast-track new classrooms for Koondrook PS.
He said “this is yet another case of city centric government refusing to recognise our many border twin-towns are to all intents and purposes single communities”.
“Yet recent changes to Department of Education policy relating to Designated Neighbourhood Schools (school zones) are once again trying to divide these towns,” Mr Walsh said.
“At Koondrook; the nearest Victorian primary schools are 20-30km away while the nearest NSW school at Barham is 1.5km away,” he added.
“Both Koondrook and Barham primaries enrol students from both sides of the river and the people living there have told me they feel they are being forcibly divided.
“Koondrook has consistently increased student numbers in the past 10 years and with rural growth forecast, this is set to continue. It has outgrown its Building the Education Revolution (BER) school building and currently operates with three classrooms in a building designed as a two-classroom facility – with two more classes in the school’s portable.
“With community support – from both sides of the river – it also has a community funded building onsite for its pre-school.”
Mr Walsh said if Koondrook refuses to take NSW students, and if the Victorian students at Barham come back, its situation will be even worse.
As background, he said after a six-year battle Koondrook finally moved into its BER funded school building in early 2013.
At that time the school had 48 students and knew more would be coming, and despite lobbying, fighting, and pleading, it was not given the additional classroom to which it would have been entitled if it had just two more students.
“The school community even offered to fund the additional building costs, but was still denied the opportunity. Its local knowledge, proof of future numbers and confirmed preschool enrolment data, was not listened to by the Department,” Mr Walsh said.
“Just a year later, as anticipated, school numbers increased and a portable classroom was brought in at a significantly higher cost than the quoted additional classroom space in the BER building,” he said.
“Yet this good news story of a growing community is being chopped off at the knees by this government, which has said it will not help the school if any of its new intake comes from NSW.”