Woman expresses EQ disappointment
AS the floodwaters tore through the Warwick State High School’s (WSHS) vacant oval and agricultural farm, Margaret McKinnon could only shake her head thinking about the latest letter sent by Education Queensland counting the floodplain as part of the school’s total land area.
As part of her campaign to save the Slade School campus as a possible educational facility to rectify the growing high school’s capacity issues, Mrs McKinnon helped table a petition in parliament and is still seeking a meeting with Education Minister Geoff Wilson.
Instead, she received a letter from the minister’s principal advisor Murray Daniel saying there was no problem, despite the high school being at almost 100 per cent capacity on day eight in 2010 and facing an extra 200 Year 7 students if the Flying Start program goes ahead.
“WSHS is situated on 20.4 hectares, including an agricultural farm... the department standard land allocation for a high school is 12 hectares in comparison,” the letter read.
Deputy Opposition Leader and Member for Southern Downs Lawrence Springborg saw for himself where last week’s flood covered the majority of this area, calling it “ludicrous” to include areas of floodplain when discussing the student-to-land-area ratio.
WSHS P&C president Mark Pearson said the school was “flying under the radar” with their student numbers steadily rising and a solution needed quickly.
“But the logistics of having a split campus (at Slade) are concerning,” Mr Pearson said.
From the P&C’s point of view, their first option is to purchase adjoining land and houses surrounding the school before thinking about a split campus solution – something Mr Springborg said would still pose hurdles.
“The problem with adjoining properties is that we’ll still have students crossing over main roads so then you’re looking at multi-million dollar solutions to overcome safety issues and we really don’t want to be spending another $8 million on another tunnel for the town,” Mr Springborg said.
“Frankly the only way it could work is to create a middle school – part of the cohort with years 7, 8 and 9 permanently in one location and the rest in another.
“You cannot rule out a Slade solution because never are we going to find 20 acres so close to town and if we miss out, we’re locked into something sitting on a floodplain.”
Mrs McKinnon said the Southern Downs Regional Council had shown interest in the Save Our Slade committee’s plight.
“They’re calling for submissions from people interested in using Slade,” Mrs McKinnon said.
Slade campus was recently put to good use as council activated it as an evacuation centre during the flood.
Mayor Ron Bellingham used the visit by Deputy Premier Paul Lucas last week to bring the campus to the attention of State Government.
“I’d mentioned the Slade School issue – in actual fact (Mr Lucas) went up and inspected Slade School,” Cr Bellingham said.
“It was such a useful facility to accommodate 260 people last Monday night and as he said, not many communities would be able to do that at all but I did suggest it might be an appropriate facility the State Government should look at purchasing.”
But the Education Minister’s principal advisor Murray Daniel said the Department “cannot resolve to supplement a school with far more built space than it will be able to occupy over the medium or long-term future”.
“The old Slade School site has sat idle for many years and the buildings would have deteriorated and functionally would not meet departmental standards,” Mr Daniel wrote.
“The cost to purchase the old Slade School site and upgrade such facilities would be significant and beyond the capabilities of current and future Capital Works Programs.”
But Mr Springborg said until a detailed inspection of Slade is done, State Government should not rule it out. “There needs to be a masterplan to put money aside to get a proper assessment done,” Mr Springborg said.
“There’s no flood issues up there, it’s a beautiful part of town – why let it slip through our fingers?”