After a year of speculation, Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro has announced that the highly anticipated high school in Bungendore will be built next to Mick Sherd Oval on the Majara-Gibraltar Street precinct where the current Bungendore Council Chambers are located.
The plans will now move into a community consultation phase ahead of the first sod being turned before the end of the year. The school is scheduled to be complete by the first term of school in 2023.
Making the announcement with NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell, and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall, Mr Barilaro said the as-yet-undisclosed investment, expected to be in excess of $10 million, will save children travelling to school in Queanbeyan or Braidwood.
“I appreciate that the location of this new school will come as a surprise to many; however, I encourage everyone to look at the benefits of having a school located here, in the centre of town.
“There’s also great potential for joint use of new facilities and to create a co-located educational campus. The new high school will be right next to the local primary school, which will benefit from an upgrade to facilities,” Mr Barilaro said.
Concerned residents said the new site appeared to be a “done deal” without consultation about other potential sites.
“We’re hearing this is not just a plan, it’s a done deal,” said resident Katy Sproule, who lives near the proposed school site and was worried about traffic flow.
“The thing that the Bungendore community doesn’t want are done deals, and we’ve fought over done deals before, and won,” Ms Sproule said.
“This is the site we’re picking,” said Mr Barilaro, who conceded a decision on the site was always going to be tricky, with the location kept under wraps until the announcement yesterday (14 August).
“Some other sites required rezoning and infrastructure, and there have been some flood issues as we’ve seen just in the last week. This isn’t the cheapest site, but it’s actually the right site in relation to getting a school built in the timeline that we’ve committed to,” he said.
The project will go through the development application process, along with a period of community consultation and arrangements with the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC).
Residents will also be without a swimming pool for about 12 months when the current aging pool behind Mick Sherd Oval is replaced with a new eight-lane under-cover pool at the proposed Bungendore Sports Hub at the opposite end of the town.
QPRC still needs to acquire the land to begin building the sports hub. A development application was lodged earlier this week and is expected to be approved at the next Council meeting on 26 August.
Bungendore resident Garth Morrison is garnering community support to protect Mick Sherd Oval, some of which will be lost to the new high school.
“The Bungendore community is wholly supportive of a new high school, but this announcement raises more questions than answers,” Mr Morrison said.
“How will Mick Sherd Oval, the heart of our town, be used as our footy home ground, as it has since 1908, when high school kids are using it five days a week?
“How will the school grow? It’s a small site and any expansion can only encroach on the oval.
“What happens to our war memorial, the pool, the Indigenous gravesite and poets corner?”
Mr Barilaro guaranteed on Friday the town’s cenotaph and any Indigenous gravesites will be preserved in the current location.
Fiona Doyle, of the Bungendore High School lobby group, said the town desperately needs a high school.
“ACT schools closed their borders to NSW kids in 2018. Queanbeyan is our feeder school for all the surrounding communities and the schools there need to double in size to accommodate all the students from those areas by 2022,” Ms Doyle said.
“We’re happy with the proposed site. We just wanted to make sure a decision for the new high school was made sooner rather than later.”
As part of the community consultation process, an online survey site has been created and Mr Barilaro encouraged everyone to have their say.
Mr Barilaro and Ms Mitchell also said both the new Bungendore and Jerrabomberra high schools will be built using an innovative building method, known as the Design for Manufacture and Assembly or DfMA.
“The new schools will be custom made, architecturally designed and constructed in a controlled factory setting, before being delivered and assembled on-site in record time,” Mr Barilaro said.
“It means we can deliver new, high-quality schools with minimal disruption to the community in a matter of months, rather than over years.”