safe-at-lastTop (from left): Ms. Edith Gray, Luke Chetcuti, Mitchell Saw, Ken Smith MP, Matilda Bird, Mr. Andrew Bonte, Front Row (from left): Youki Innes, Kyla Sheerin and Josh Moran. Celebration time: Students at the Bass Coast School are over the moon that they can now trek into the CBD without the threat of being hit by passing cars.

THE path has been long and hard, but students at Bass Coast Specialist School now have safe access to and from the Wonthaggi CBD.
Construction on a new footpath from the Specialist School to the centre of town began two weeks ago, following a community-led campaign to protect students from one of the busiest roads in town.
Bass MP Ken Smith, who has lobbied for the project for the past 12 months, says everyone has pitched in.
“The Bass Coast Specialist School Community Access Project is a $116,000 project jointly funded by the Victorian Government’s Transport Investing in Regions ($30,000), Bass Coast Shire Council ($50,000) and the Department of Education and Early childhood Development ($36,000),” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith is just happy in the knowledge that the students will now be protected from traffic.
“If one of the students was hit by a car, you would never forgive yourself. That is why this project is so important,” the outgoing MP said.
“Safety is vital for the kids. There are new estates opening up down the road. Some of the kids have to use wheelchairs – with cars moving backwards and forwards it was a real problem. Now we’re going to have them off the road, which is great news.”
Edith Gray, the principal of Bass Coast Specialist School, says the students will now be able to access the main street, as well as the Wonthaggi Secondary College, via 290 metres of concrete footpath and a DDA compliant road crossing.
“They need to learn how to be part of the community, so this will really open the world up for them,” she said.
Mr Smith echoed these comments.
“They can now be part of Wonthaggi – which will give them some real meaning in their lives,” Mr Smith said.
“It’s so important for the town to see them out and about as well.”
With numbers at the school up by 48 since 2009, the footpath is welcome relief for Ms Gray.
“Our numbers are increasing so there was a growing need for it. We have students coming from Inverloch, Corinella and Phillip Island. I’m just thankful to Ken for getting this footpath off the ground, so the school can continue to flourish,” she said.
Mr Smith is hoping construction will finish before Christmas, with crews currently hard at work filling in the concrete in McKenzie Street.
“It’s a special, special school, so we especially need to look after them,” the veteran Member of Parliament nodded.

Shire on the pathway

THE Bass Coast Shire Council has welcomed the announcement that the footpath, running from the Bass Coast Specialist School to Watt Street has been funded and also advises that the works are currently in progress.
It has appointed a contractor to build the 2.5 metre wide concrete path.
“The pathway will provide access for students from the Specialist School to the Wonthaggi CBD and Webb’s Shed,” Council’s Infrastructure Director, Felicity Sist, said.
“Existing footpaths will also be widened to 2.5 metres.”
Ms Sist said the path will be located adjacent to the Specialist School and run through the site of the CFA shed on McKenzie Street, which has already been removed.
“A safe crossing will be constructed at Edgar Street, and the path will then pass nearby residential properties and cross over Baillieu Street East,” Ms Sist said.
“The new crossing location in McKenzie Street (north of Edgar Street) has been chosen as it is considered the safest point in regard to clear vision in both directions.
“It will also avoid costly service relocation in other areas. The path will connect to the existing footpath at Watt Street.”
Ms Sist said construction was expected to take approximately eight weeks, weather permitting, and access to some properties may be disrupted during the works.
“Landowners will be notified of any access restrictions to their properties in advance,” Ms Sist said.
Funding for this project has been provided through a partnership between the Department of Transport, Planning and Infrastructure’s Transport Investing in Regions initiative ($30,000), the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development ($36,000), and Council ($50,000).