20 April 2023

Vertical schools urged for growing Town Centres and other high-density areas

| Ian Bushnell
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vertical school

South Melbourne Public School, Victoria’s first vertical school. It has shared school and community facilities. Photo: Hayball.

The ACT Education Directorate will have to think ‘up’ if the school needs of the growing number of families choosing to live in apartments are to be met, according to housing advocacy group Greater Canberra.

In a submission to a Legislative Assembly committee inquiry into school infrastructure, Greater Canberra has resurrected the idea of vertical or multi-storey schools, specifically in high-density areas such as Town Centres where apartment development is booming.

It also urges the ACT government to consider a small footprint, vertical primary school as part of the proposed East Lake development in the inner south.

“School infrastructure poses a major urban design challenge as Canberra families with children are increasingly making the choice to live in higher-density areas,” the submission says.

It says the high cost of housing and the government-driven moves to a more compact city mean families are increasingly drawn to more affordable and convenient housing options in medium- and high-density areas.

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Greater Canberra says it is unreasonable to expect those families to travel out of these areas for schooling.

With land at a premium, reliance alone on the traditional flat format of the ACT’s schools did not make sense.

“Insisting only on the creation of new flat schools would likely increase the fiscal and environmental costs of new school investment and force families living in these areas into longer, more polluting commutes,” it says.

Vertical formats would also ensure there was land for dedicated play and sports areas and for schools to be built next to available green space without encroaching on them.

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Greater Canberra cites the example of Belconnen where, according to the 2021 Census, almost all 4700 homes were medium or high-density units for about 2095 families, with 245 children already in the Town Centre and attending primary school.

“However, despite the large volume of families living in this area, the closest primary school is in Florey [2.5 km away],” the submission says.

“As the number of children and families in the Belconnen Town Centre is projected to expand rapidly over the next decade, this raises the question of where additional schooling infrastructure may be provided.”

It says the ACT is lagging behind other jurisdictions, such as Victoria, where its eighth vertical school is scheduled to open in mid-2023.

East Lake aerial

The East Lake area will comprise medium to high-density housing, and should include a vertical school, says Greater Canberra. Photo: ACT Government

In the inner south, Greater Canberra says continuing growth in the Kingston area, where there is no school despite 400 children living there, plus future development in East Lake and Dairy Road, will mean an increasing number of children living further from the current schools of Telopea and Red Hill.

“We strongly recommend that the ACT Government investigate potential locations and designs for vertical schools and invest in such vertical schooling infrastructure as a priority,” the submission says.

“Future plans for vertical schools should be integrated into relevant strategic planning documents, such as the City Plan, town centre master plans, and the soon-to-be finalised District Strategies.”

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The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association raised the idea of vertical schools in a 2018 Budget submission as part of its concerns about overcrowding in inner north campuses.

More recently, the Molonglo Valley Community Forum last year called on the government to consider building the proposed school and college in the Molonglo Group Centre up rather than out to conserve community land.

Council spokesperson Janelle Kennard told Region that in 2018 the Council had wanted the government to look at alternatives rather than just saying there was no land.

Ms Kennard said that, as well as the growing inner north, the Council had been concerned about the educational needs of families in the Belconnen and Woden Town Centres for some time.

“To begin with, we didn’t think many families lived in those apartments, but that’s not how it is anymore,” she said. “We’re seeing lots of families choosing to live in apartments.”

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Ms Kennard said that while there were schools around the Town Centres, such as Lyons or Florey, children needed to cross major roads to get to them.

She noted many Town Centre families might not have a car so having a school close by was important.

“Town Centres often lack that community feel that we know a school provides, so even from that point of view, considering schools there was important as well,” Ms Kennard said.

But a vertical school would have to be designed cleverly and still provide adequate outdoor space.

Ms Kennard said that back in 2018, parents were open about the idea.

“What we heard was parents being willing to look at those options because parents really value having a school nearby that feels part of their community,” she said.

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Clever Interrobang6:54 pm 21 Apr 23

Why not just reopen some of the many schools that have closed down?

Or, expel the high numbers of NSW students taking place of local kids?

Surely that will help reduce the burden

Consultancy firms like these are paid to sell you a product – for a small city with a slow growing population these types of ideas just seem like a waste of money and short sighted

Stephen Saunders2:04 am 21 Apr 23

Australians are begging for vertical schools. Just as they adore vertical living and 500K population growth a year.

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