Special school blasts classroom delay 'bungling'

PARENTS at Warrnambool’s only school for children with disabilities say they are dismayed by the education department’s bungled handling of new classrooms. 

Warrnambool Special Developmental School was given two portables handed down from another school in January with the understanding they would be ready to accommodate classes at the overcrowded school. 

But lengthy delays mean the the classrooms still won’t be ready until the beginning of next term — despite earlier promises the works would only take a month. 

The news has further aggravated parents and teachers who are calling on the government to build a whole new school. 

In a scathing letter to the education department’s infrastructure boss, school council leader and former Moyne Shire mayor Ken Gale said parents and the school council were frustrated and angry. 

“The department has known for 12 months about the overcrowding conditions at our school. We find it inexcusable that we are now seven weeks into the new school year and are still some time off being able to move the classes into the new rooms,” Mr Gale said.

“The school council of the Warrnambool Special Developmental School wish to state in the strongest terms our dismay at the way in which the delivery and refurbishment of a portable building in our school was handled.”

The school has run out of space on its own grounds and had to negotiate with the neighbouring community college to use its land for the portables, which will accommodate two new classes. 

Mr Gale said the saga had caused “significant disorder for our students ... many of whom are autistic and do not cope with change of any type”.

“It has caused considerable stress and anxiety to our students, parents and staff.” 

Principal Robert Dowell said the issue highlighted the need for a new school. 

“But we don’t want people to think we’re full. We’re still taking new students,” Mr Dowell said. 

About 108 students attend the school, with enrolments increasing each year.  A spokesman for the Department of Education said “significant modifications to the original internal design of the two-classroom relocatable were requested by the school principal on 5 February 2014”.

“These modifications — which were approved by the department on 7 February 2014 — caused a four-week delay to the previously scheduled late February completion date.”

South West Coast MP and Premier Denis Napthine told The Standard last month finding a new site for the school was “high up on my agenda for the future of Warrnambool”. 

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