Morwell schools in limbo

THREE of Morwell’s four state primary schools remain in limbo over their future location after the state budget again failed to fund a proposal to see them merge on a new site.

The proposal’s omission from budget allocations was met with disappointment from the school communities and State Member for Morwell Russell Northe last week.

Morwell (Crinigan Road), Commercial Road and Tobruk Street primary schools have lobbied hard over several years to secure about $12 million for the construction of a new ‘super school’ on the former Kurnai College site in McDonald Street, Morwell.

A master plan for the schools’ future also calls for a redevelopment of the current Morwell Park Primary School on its existing site.

The Express first reported the schools were considering a merger in 2006.

Last year Latrobe City Council chief executive Paul Buckley, also on the Morwell School Regeneration Project committee, said it was disappointing the 2011 state budget had not funded the proposal since the design work was complete and the project was ready to go to tender.

The three schools have already pooled their Federal Government ‘Building the Education Revolution’ money to build a state-of-the-art $3.7 million hall on the flagged site.

On Friday, project spokesperson, and Commercial Road principal, Jamie Tactor said the hall had still barely been used by the schools due to the logistics of having to transport students to the site.

He said the schools were “definitely very disappointed” the funding proposal “didn’t go through” this year.

They would now need to re-evaluate maintenance budgets “and see what emergency work we need to do that is more long-term and not just about patch-work”, he added.

Mr Tactor said maintenance spending decisions were problematic given “we don’t want to put too much into the buildings but it has to be enough to make things safe for students and teachers”.

Mr Northe said while he was confident the proposal would be funded in the future, he had been “hopeful it would be in this budget”.

“(State Education Minister Martin Dixon) is acutely aware of this project…I have had conversations with him and we have led delegations and had the minister visit the site,” he said, adding he had advised Mr Dixon of his disappointment in the budget decision.

“I understand this was a very tough budget and a line has to be drawn somewhere but that doesn’t stop me from continuing to advocate for this project,” Mr Northe said.

Mr Tactor said “we are certainly crossing our fingers for next year”.

Mr Northe recognised the project was a major priority for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Gippsland regional office.