THE community is throwing its weight behind urgent calls for a footpath to be constructed outside Bass Coast Specialist School.
Following last week’s Sentinel-Times article (‘Blame game on path drives parents mad’, page 3), Specialist School principal Edith Grey said she received “numerous” phone calls from concerned community members last week.
“They saw last week’s article and they said they just couldn’t believe we don’t have a footpath,” Ms Grey said.
“I haven’t heard from (Bass Coast Shire) Council or the Education Department.”
With the highest number of students at the special needs school than ever before (52 enrolled this year), Ms Grey said she was hoping to expand class activities to the nearby Wonthaggi Secondary College later this year, but the lack of a safe walking path makes things difficult.
Meanwhile, Bass Coast Shire Council has hit back at comments from Bass MP Ken Smith, who indicated last week that the construction of the footpath is the shire’s responsibility.
Council’s infrastructure director, Felicity Sist, reiterated that anyone else building on the site of the Bass Coast Specialist School, which opened in 2009, would have been required to construct a footpath to connect with the existing network and a car park that is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).
However, because the school was funded by the State Government a permit was not required, meaning a footpath – which is viewed as an essential part of infrastructure outside any school – was left off the blueprints.
Ms Sist said council has been aware of the issue and drew up designs for a footpath as far back as 2010.
“We have made numerous efforts to obtain State Government funding for the project, but have been denied on three occasions,” she said.
“We are currently in discussions with the Education Department to see if they are willing to contribute.”
Ms Sist also took umbrage to Mr Smith stating the unfunded footpath designed by the shire was “over-engineered.”
“There are a number of standards in the DDA we must adhere to when building footpaths,” she continued.
“We are confident the footpath council has designed to link the existing footpath network to the Bass Coast Specialist School is DDA compliant, including having a minimum clear width of at least 1.8 metres at the narrowest point – a 1.2m wide path would not meet DDA requirements.”
“We want to build a good quality footpath, including three crossings that are safe for all users.
“Anything less would require higher maintenance, which would subsequently cost our ratepayers more money in the long term.”
A spokesperson for the Education Department assured the department is “committed to working with the local council to resolve the issue”.
Neither the department nor council gave any indication as to an estimated timeframe.