BY LUCAS BAIRD
The Ultimo community has started a push for an Upper House inquiry into the Education Department’s handling of the Ultimo Public School redevelopment.
The Department of Education’s decision to relocate the students, knock down the existing school and rebuild it created anger and confusion amongst the parents. Ultimo
Pyrmont Education Campaign Committee (UPECC) member, Mary Mortimer, told City Hub that the current situation is “unacceptable”.
“We are collecting signatures on a petition that basically says don’t demolish the school and go back to the drawing board,” Ms Mortimer said.
“We have tabled two lots of 500 signatures and the Minister replies with the same thing each time.”
While Ms Mortimer admitted that the possibility of an inquiry before the end of the year was slim, she was confident that the new year would provide the opportunity.
“We had Paul Green, the Christian Democrat Upper House member, come out to the school. He has talked about the possibility of having an Upper House inquiry into what is happening at Ultimo early in the new year,” Ms Mortimer said.
Treasurer of the school’s Parents and Citizens Group, Lisa O’Brien, labelled the decision to knock down and rebuild the school as “frustrating” and “distressing”, and also indicated that it was taking its toll on the children.
“My boy is in year three,” Ms O’Brien said.
“He has got really good friends, he doesn’t want to lose these friendships and is wondering where he is going. I heard from another mum the other day that her little boy is getting concerned and is getting very worried about where he is going to school in 12 months time.”
The Department of Education made the decision to rebuild the school after breaking a promise to develop a new school on Wattle Street with a capacity of 1000 students.
This was the second time the department had changed plans to develop the new school, with the original site being changed to Wattle Street in December 2014.
UPECC remains adamant, however, that it can still secure the Wattle Street site for the school.
Ms Mortimer indicated that both the City of Sydney Council and the Department of Education would have to work together to make it happen. “Although it is a state responsibility, not a council responsibility, we do want the City of Sydney to assist the department to resolve the problem,” Ms Mortimer said.
City of Sydney has not ruled out selling the site to the Department of Education.
“The City of Sydney is appointing an Environment Protection Authority-accredited site auditor to advise on and oversee the preparation of a remediation action plan for the site,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said.
“The plan will determine what potential development could take place on the site and what remediation is required to allow this to occur,” the spokesperson said.
“When the plan is complete, the City will decide what to do with the site.”
“The City remains willing to complete the sale of the site to the NSW Department of Education and Communities,” she said.
A Department of Education spokesperson told City Hub that “No decision has been made regarding the temporary relocation of Ultimo Public School students during the construction of the new Ultimo Public School.”