Thousands of parents and students at Jerrabomberra and Googong say a lack of transparency regarding a new high school at Jerrabomberra only raises more questions about its capacity and proposed opening for term one in 2023.
The Jerrabomberra Public School Parents and Citizens’ Association wrote to the Member for Monaro, John Barilaro, and the chief executive of School Infrastructure NSW, Anthony Manning, on 16 May seeking answers to their questions after the latest update in March failed to include anything helpful.
An announcement about Jerrabomberra High School was first made in December 2018.
Jerrabomberra Public School P&C president Kylie Prescott said parents wanting to enrol their children at the new high school had less than 10 months to submit enrolment forms, due in March 2022.
The letter, obtained by Region Media, asked for practical and helpful information after the update in March. It said a community survey of 695 respondents identified timeliness of construction of the high school as one of the priorities of the project.
“The families of Jerrabomberra need REAL information about the high school in Jerrabomberra now,” the letter says. “This information will allow them to make informed decisions about their children’s schooling, their children’s future, their family’s future, and all the supports that enable a successful schooling experience.”
Ms Prescott told Region Media she was hopeful of a response and had received a phone call from Mr Barilaro’s office, but the lack of a written response only raised more questions about the school’s capacity and opening.
“The School Infrastructure website still says the school is in the planning phase, so we’re just after that next tier of information to let us know where in the planning phase it’s up to,” she said.
“The phone call I received was very positive and understanding of our questions, but my understanding is the next level of information is in the pipeline, which just raises more questions among the community.
“There is a level of concern that a capacity of 500 students for the high school is too small, noting that there are more than 950 students at the primary school, which was initially built for 380 students.
“It seems to be history repeating itself with regard to planning and capacity for growth.”
The P&C Association is also asking if the high school will be a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) high school after the last update in March made no mention of it.
The high school has long been touted as the region’s first STEM high school, to be built in conjunction with a $23 million innovation precinct at South Jerrabomberra.
Ms Prescott also said the growth of Jerrabomberra and nearby Googong meant proposed schools in Jerrabomberra and Bungendore would be crucial to the education of students in those areas.
“Neither Googong nor Jerrabomberra have a public high school, so it also begs the question as to what is the plan for high schools in the region,” she said.
“The reason we’ve written this letter is so that parents can make educated decisions about what schools in their area offer and what’s best for their family or siblings, even down to things like bus routes.”
In response to questions about the letter from Jerrabomberra Public School P&C, Mr Barilaro’s office said the P&C had a “Labor agenda”, which Ms Prescott laughed off.
“We are very much an apolitical organisation,” she said.
A public information session involving Mr Barilaro, scheduled for this Friday (4 June), has been postponed due to Mr Barilaro being asked to attend a State funeral for rugby league immortal Bob Fulton on behalf of the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who is involved in National Cabinet discussions about the COVID-19 situation.
A NSW Department of Education spokesperson said planning for the new school is well under way and the community and stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide comments.
“The department is liaising with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and the local council to ensure the new high school is delivered by day one, term one 2023,” the spokesperson said.
“Work on a social impact assessment (SIA) is currently progressing and part of the SIA will involve consultation with the local community and stakeholders.
“The lodgement of the Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs), which is a key step in the planning process, is expected in the upcoming months. The SEARs shape the studies that are needed as part of the State Significant Development Application.
The spokesperson also said the department monitors population and development trends to meet enrolment needs in schools across NSW including in Jerrabomberra and Googong.
“The department provides additional permanent facilities or new schools when increases in enrolments are stable and sustained,” the spokesperson said.