Sion campus to close

AFTER almost a year of community speculation, Catholic College Sale has announced it will consolidate the Sion and St Patrick’s campuses onto the St Patrick’s site but the future use of the historic Sion convent building and associated grounds remains unclear.

The amalgamation will necessitate the construction of new buildings and restorative work at the St Patrick’s campus, including refurbishment of the St Patrick’s building, redevelopment of the John 23rd building, extensive grounds redevelopment and a modern performing arts auditorium as part of a St Mary’s Hall redevelopment.

There will also be a new learning resources centre and student amenities.

A proposed master plan for the multi-million dollar works is currently being finalised for consultation, while a 10-year financial plan is also being formalised.

In a statement, Bishop of the Diocese of Sale, the Most Reverend Pat O’Regan, and Marist Provincial Australia’s Brother Peter Carroll, said the ongoing financial viability of maintaining both campuses made it necessary to look into the future provision of Catholic secondary education in Sale.

The Sion site will “remain in the hands of Catholic authorities and its future purpose will be determined at a later date”, the statement asserts.

Catholic College principal Chris Randell said the decision followed consultation with the public last year, and he was enthusiastic for work to get underway.

“It’s very exciting; it’s something that the community here has wanted, and there’s always that dilemma what do you have to let go of in order to get the improvement?”

“It’s an evolution of Catholic education in Sale.

“We will move forward fairly quickly with the whole process.

“The master plan that we’re looking at, that’s probably a 10-year evolution,” he said, adding initial works would involve the St Pat’s building, which needed to be fully renovated into a modern educational facility.

Mr Randell said a lot of the work would involve updating existing buildings, and the longer term need for newer buildings would probably be addressed in five or six years.

He said the future of the Sion site was now in the hands of the diocese.

“Sion is owned by the diocese, and the diocese will form a planning committee or investigation committee in consultation with the Sion Sisters, and that decision will be made with the appropriate people at the appropriate time the school won’t be directly involved with the Sion decision,” Mr Randell said.

“The decision (to move) was made in relation to educational provision how can we provide the best educational outcomes for our students, today and into the future?

“We’ve now got a very good understanding that, in terms of the school, the improvement will come in terms of our facilities and therefore our educational outcomes, but the Sion heritage will continue on within the school.”

While Mr Randell anticipates government financial contributions, he said the school would look to fund the development from within the community.

“The community is responsible for education in the Sale area, so therefore the community will work to contribute toward the continued education,” he said.

Work is expected to begin later this year, with stage one to be completed by the end of 2018.

Stage one will involve refurbishment of the historic St Pat’s building, redevelopment of the John 23rd building and extensive grounds redevelopment.

A Wellington Shire Council spokesperson said no applications for planning permits had yet been lodged for major works at the Pat’s or Sion sites.

The Sion site is zoned residential, and has a high potential value for residential development.

The historic Sion convent and St Pat’s buildings are protected by Wellington Shire heritage overlays, with St Pat’s part of the St Mary’s heritage overlay precinct, as well as having the building listed separately.

The Sion convent is also on the National Trust of Australia register and Register of the National Estate.

Sion was established in 1890 by the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, while St Pat’s opened under the guidance of the Marist Brothers in 1922. The schools merged in 1977 to form Catholic College Sale.

Both campuses currently educate about 1000 students.

Mr Randell was unable to provide a date for when Sion students would be relocated to the St Pat’s campus, but said it would be some time in the next two years.