SALE College has stepped up its campaign for a single campus, and has earmarked land near the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex.
Wellington Shire Council this week resolved to “strongly support” the school’s proposal to create one campus, and support the Committee for Wellington in its advocacy for the proposal.
Council will write to Education Minister James Merlino, asking for support to progress the “one campus” proposal by commissioning and funding a feasibility study.
Council will ask for Education Department staff to work with the school, council and the Committee for Wellington in looking at potential sites, as well as support funding for the design and construction for a new campus.
Council will also write to all state and federal MPs who represent Wellington Shire, seeking their support in securing funding for the proposal.
Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien wrote to the minister in April asking for improvements.
Sale College has more than 800 students, with year seven to nine students currently attending the junior campus on Guthridge Parade, and Years 10 to 12 on the senior campus at the corner of York and Macalister Sts.
The school is concerned it may struggle to cope with an increasing student population under current arrangements.
Speaking to Tuesday’s council meeting, Committee for Wellington committee member Leo O’Brien recalled his time as a councillor in 2009, when the Education Department approached council about buying a site to build a new Sale College campus.
“I think it’s overdue that something starts to happen in this field,” he said.
“The Committee for Wellington has set up a subcommittee basically around education and the provision of all our education.
“We’re talking to the three main providers, particularly in our primary and secondary school spheres, but the big focus of that subcommittee is actually to work with the Sale College and our community to get a better outcome in terms of the provision of the high school campus.
“We’re meeting with the Education Department, the outer Gippsland region manager, and a couple of others on July 30.”
The Committee for Wellington is a group of business and community leaders who promote development of the shire.
Late last year, Sale College school council president Jenny Scoble wrote to the committee, seeking its support. The committee met with the school in October to discuss the proposal.
In the letter, Ms Scoble said having two sites meant students’ learning was disrupted as they moved between the campuses.
The location of the senior campus in the Sale CBD, Ms Scoble said, had many drawbacks, including daily access to nearby fast food outlets, having five licensed venues and bottle shops within a block, and the safety risk of being on the highway and having multiple points of entry.
Having two campuses, she said, also posed administrative challenges.
“The complexity and cost of staffing across two campuses means very few teachers work over both campuses,” Ms Scoble said.
“Turnover of staff is high, which constantly disrupts the school’s ability to maintain consistent approaches to teaching and learning and student management.
“As much as Sale College is badged one school, the reality is that it is two schools with two different cultures.”
Sale College is more expensive to run because of the doubling up of administration, libraries and gymnasiums, according to Ms Scoble.
With Catholic College Sale in the process of consolidating its two campuses, Sale College will be the only secondary school in the shire with two campuses.
“Sale College has received less than 10 per cent of the funding for facilities compared to the Catholic College Sale, so consequently money is being spent maintaining an ageing facility on two sites to literally patch leaks and fix toilets instead of going towards a new school that the residents of Sale can see as a viable choice for their children,” Ms Scoble said.
Ms Scoble said a greenfield site near the GRSC on Cobains Rd would be the ideal location for the new school, with the netball and basketball courts and hockey pitch complementing school facilities.
The land had been earmarked as a long-term replacement for Sale Oval as part of a potential expansion of the GRSC.
Councillor Darren McCubbin said it was important to invest in the future of young people.
“Having (Sale College) split over two campuses is not the best educational achievement for our students,” he said.
“Splitting resources through the two campuses – I know as a former teacher myself, it’s very difficult to go from period three at one campus to go to period four at the other campus. It’s extraordinarily hard on teachers to do that.”
Cr McCubbin admitted a lot of work was needed before consolidating the campuses.
“Maybe it all ships to Guthridge Parade, maybe it all ships to Cobains Rd or onto the Maffra Rd,” he said.
“Really, at this stage, we’re not advocating for any of those, we’re really just looking at a master plan which says ‘look, you know Sale College has done some wonderful things over a number of years, but now it’s time to refocus, re-scope and to find a combined campus where everything can be constructed’.”
The state government has been asked for comment.