Parents claim victory following new Preston high school announcement

Nov 13, 2016 by

Henrietta Cook –

A new day, a flurry of new school announcements to ease the chronic overcrowding plaguing Victorian classrooms.

The Andrews government continued its road show of school announcements on Wednesday, unveiling plans for a new Preston high school and a $15 million education precinct for Footscray.

The Education Minister and Deputy Pemier James Merlino announces that the old Preston Girls School will re-open as a High School.  Photo: Penny Stephens

It comes as the state grapples with an explosion in enrolments, with an extra 90,000 students expected to squeeze into Victorian schools in the next five years.

Education Minister James Merlino said the former Preston Girls’ Secondary School would reopen as a co-ed high school that could eventually accommodate up to 1000 students.

The school was closed under the former Coalition state government in 2013 due to dwindling enrolments, but the site was retained for a future school.

Many locals families wanted to send their children to a co-ed school and some steered clear of the school because of perceptions that it predominantly catered for Muslim students.

The announcement is a win for locals who have run a fierce campaign for a new school.

Similar campaigns were run by parents in the Docklands and Richmond, where new schools have also been announced.

“As our population has boomed and more and more children have moved into the area it has become a huge issue,” said Anh Mai, founder of the High School for Preston campaign.

She said families in the area currently sent their children to Coburg, Thornbury and Reservoir High, which were not accessible by walking or riding.

“They are desperate for a co-ed high school,” she said.

Mr Merlino remained tight-lipped on when the school would open, saying it would be “subject to budget decisions”.

This infuriated a local at the press conference, who shouted over the minister “of course it was always going to be opened but at least you can give us a date”.

The minister then said that the earliest the school would re-open was in 2019/2020.

Between $3 to $6 million will need to be spent improving the school.

An Education Department review found that Preston was a fast-growing community, and there would be a capacity shortfall of around 1600 students by 2031. “We needed to act immediately,” Mr Merlino said.

Earlier in the day, the state government released details of a new education precinct in Footscray which will bring together early childhood, school, university and adult learning facilities.

It has invested $15 million in the project, which will involve the redevelopment of Footscray City College, revamping Gilmore College for Girls as a co-ed junior high school and building a new junior secondary school in the western suburb.

Last month, the state government announced that “over the next few years” a primary school in the Docklands, a primary and secondary school at Fishermans Bend and a new primary school in North Melbourne would be built to accommodate the student boom.

Source: Parents claim victory following new Preston high school announcement

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