After years of lobbying, the site for Docklands’ very own primary school has finally been announced and preliminary work is underway.
The State Government announced on April 10 that the new primary school would be built at 259-269 Footscray Rd, on the corner of Little Docklands Drive. The land will be transferred from Development Victoria (formerly Places Victoria) to the Victorian School Building Authority.
The school will accommodate about 475 students from Prep to Year 6. The vertical school will be built over three to five levels and will make best use of the open space.
The government will provide new funding for the school as part of its $2.4 billion infrastructure funding for schools and early education facilities across Victoria.
The School Building Authority said funding would be subject to future state budgets but has confirmed money for the site would not come from existing Docklands projects.
At the Docklands Community Forum on April 26, authority major projects manager Enrique Gutierrez said: “It’s new money. We’re not taking money from any other project. It’s totally separate.”
Because funding is subject to annual budget processes, no one can predict when the school will be open for learning.
Four weeks of public consultation started on April 24. Master-planning is to take three months (types of buildings and key locations within the site) before moving to a detailed design phase (architectural drawings).
Authority representative Alex Schiekowki told the community forum that once funding was secured, it would take at least 18 months to build.
Ms Schiekowki said the authority was keen to hear from locals about how the school could be used for other community uses.
“Its primary function is a school, but we see it as a piece of community infrastructure and we’d like to look at ways about how that can be utilised before and after school and on weekends … creating different spaces for others to use,” she said.
Minister for Family and Children, Jenny Mikakos, said: "Docklands primary school will be an incredible local school that will be accessible for families, provide first-rate education facilities for local kids and ultimately help grow an already thriving inner-city community."
All Docklands primary-aged children, as well as some in the CBD and West Melbourne, will be entitled to attend the school, although the enrolment boundaries are yet to be determined.
Long-standing community group, City Schools 4 City Kids (CS4CK), which campaigned for a Docklands school, said it was delighted about the new school site.
“After so many false hopes for a school in Docklands over the past decade, we do hope the design and construction of this school is made in a timely manner for existing local families, and will also be sufficient to accommodate the children of families who live in the thousands of newly-approved residential apartments in Victoria Harbour and the CBD,” co-founders Michelle Styles and Denise Fung-Henderson said.
Ms Styles and Ms Fung-Henderson also said the selected site was located in an area of the highest ratio of short-stay apartments and lowest ratio of families.
“Demographically, more families live in the Yarra’s Edge and Victoria Harbour areas of Docklands and will therefore likely face a commute by bicycle or tram, rather than being able to walk, although this is much better than needing to travel by car to an overcrowded school in a neighbouring community,” they said.
“It is great news for businesses in NewQuay and Harbour Town, who are likely to see an uptick in consumer traffic from families in other areas of Docklands, CBD and West Melbourne who access this school,” Ms Styles and Ms Fung-Henderson said.
Last October, Mr Merlino announced a school would be built in Docklands. April 11 marked the six-month, self-imposed deadline to announce the site.
CS4CK also said a secondary school would be the next step to make Docklands more family-friendly. In its Docklands School Provision Review, the government identified the demand for a secondary school from the Docklands community. The review found that between 2015 and 2035, the number of secondary school-aged children in Docklands will increase by more than 500 students.
“Having a local inclusive school is great news for the wider Docklands community, as families with school-aged children will be more likely to stay and have more time to contribute back to all aspects of the Docklands life – we can be a richer community,” CS4CK said.
Article by Sunny Liu and Shane Scanlan
Docklands News – 25 Oct 2016