GREAT school, pity about the buildings.
That’s pretty much how Wonthaggi Secondary College Principal Garry Dennis summed up the situation on Gippsland ABC Radio last week.
Mr Dennis was commenting on a statement made the previous week by outgoing Bass Coast Shire Council CEO, Allan Bawden, that the establishment of an ‘Education Precinct’ was at the top of his list of things he’d like to have seen achieved in his time at the helm.
He’s not on his own.
And you only had to look at the scaffolding that surrounds the front façade of the college’s McBride Avenue senior campus in the past week to realise there’s something seriously wrong with the old building.
“Someone was up on the roof a little while ago and happened to bump into the two metres of bricks that used to rise above the roof there and they moved,” said college principal Garry Dennis this week.
“In light of that terrible accident down in Melbourne, where that masonry wall fell on those people, we got an engineer in straight away and the advice was that it had to come down immediately because it was a potential danger to the children and to the public.
“We couldn’t wait for the money to come through from the Education Department; we just went ahead and did it.”
That’s not the only problem with the senior campus building.
The roof over the science area at the school has corroded and, as Mr Dennis puts it, “it no longer performs its primary function”, i.e. keeping the rain out!
He estimates it will cost well in excess of several hundred thousand dollars to fix the roof.
“We’ve got a great school; it’s just the bricks and mortar that are the problem.
“The kids are safe and we’d be able to fix the problems with sufficient money but it’s not a long-term remedy.
“We’ve looked after the buildings well but the time has just come where they need to be replaced.”
He said Wonthaggi had 1200 kids and growing and the redevelopment was needed to meet their current and future needs.
“Back in November 2010, we were invited up to Melbourne with the expectation that there would be an announcement but there was a change of government in the meantime and we were told there was no point going.
“We might only have been a few days away from getting that money.”
Mr Dennis said the community and stakeholders had done a lot of work towards getting the education precinct established and while that wasn’t wasted work, there was no sign of it bearing fruit.
“You’d think when all the planning has been done and the whole community is right behind an outcome that it would be easy for a government go along with it and say “there’s a community that’s really done the hard yards to get something they need.
“We certainly remain hopeful, no doubt about that but we don’t get overly worried when the next budget rolls around. Hopefully we’ll get it one day.”
Mr Dennis said the plan was to develop a senior campus on the new McKenzie Street site and for other education providers to join it there.
“The junior campus would always remain at South Dudley, initially as a year 7 to 9 campus but in the future, if we got a new 7-10 campus at San Remo, South Dudley could revert to being a year 7 to 10 as well and we’d have 11 and 12 at the senior campus.”
Will it ever happen, who knows but if someone in authority could take an interest in the state of the buildings at the senior campus in Wonthaggi, it might at least get the new school back on the funding list for the future.
Buildings fail kids at Wonthaggi secondary