Wollongbar Public School P&C; president Susan Dyer and parents are outraged that under the Government’s Building Education Revolution the school was told it would be allowed to build two new classrooms if the original schoolhouse was demolished.
Wollongbar Public School P&C; president Susan Dyer and parents are outraged that under the Government’s Building Education Revolution the school was told it would be allowed to build two new classrooms if the original schoolhouse was demolished. Jay Cronan

No air-con for Empire Vale School

THE Federal Government’s Building the Education Revolution (BER) program has imposed a backward step on one North Coast school.

Children who once enjoyed air-conditioning in their old demountable classrooms at Empire Vale Public School will have to sweat it out in new classrooms, after the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) said the school didn’t get hot enough in summer to warrant such cooling.

Empire Vale’s P&C committee wrote to The Northern Star, to Reed Constructions and to local MPs this week complaining about the shock decision on the $900,000 project.

P&C president Toni Caesar said air-conditioning had been part of the original plan, but had been dropped at the last minute because the double modular classroom would have ‘passive ventilation’.

Empire Vale apparently falls outside the ‘compulsory’ air-conditioning zone for NSW, the P&C letter said.

The DET excludes schools in areas whose mean maximum January temperatures are less than 30 degrees Celsius.

Ballina’s mean top temperature for January since 1992 is 28.3. In 2002 the area recorded a 42-degree day.

“We have become aware of several similar-sized schools less than 20km from Empire Vale which have had air-conditioning fitted in new classrooms under BER,” the letter stated. It was ‘preposterous’ one school gained while another lost something it had, it said.

Ms Caesar said the school had also lost its promised covered walkway because it had ‘gone over budget’.

Other schools are also frustrated at the BER process.

Wollongbar PS P&C president Susan Dyer said the association had endured nine months of going around in circles about what it could have under the scheme.

DET knocked back its initial ‘shopping list’ of covered walkways and a resurfacing of its slippery walkways.

Two classrooms were then offered on condition the school demolish its historical schoolhouse. It refused.

Next option was a covered outdoor learning area for $300,000.

The school didn’t think that was value for money and chose to swap that for electronic whiteboards in classrooms and a refurbishment.

Ms Dyer said that had been agreed and approved, when they were told on Friday the technology component was no longer an option.

They were also told the two classrooms were no longer available to the school, because it was ‘in the refurbishment category’ now.

P&C members were filled with frustration, she said.

State Clarence MP Steve Cansdell has called for people to have their say at a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the BER program.

BER had been mismanaged on a grand scale by the State Government, he said.

Submissions will be received until June 7.

A Commonwealth taskforce is also examining the operation of the scheme after mismanagement claims.



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