WARRNAMBOOL'S most vulnerable students are learning in sites "not fit for purpose", educators pushing to secure a new campus say.
The city's WAVE program, a re-engagement campus for about 40 students at-risk of not completing school, has been without a permanent home for the past three years.
Students are currently taught at a Lava Street office building, located next door to a bottle shop with one classroom and no outdoor area, and regularly walk a kilometre to a Fairy Street site where they do construction-based learning.
Beyond the Bell Warrnambool action group chair Glenys Phillpot said the arrangement was "woefully inadequate".
Mrs Phillpot said there was a push for the WAVE program to move into the Warrnambool Special Developmental School's Hyland Street campus next year when that school moved to a new facility in Wollaston Road.
"This would allow more programs to be run and more students to be accommodated in a model that is kicking goals despite its space limitations," she said.
Warrnambool College auspices the WAVE program and principal David Clift said Victoria's Department of Education and Training was aware students needed a new campus.
"Any fit-for-purpose education facility that can be transformed quickly to suit vulnerable youth in Warrnambool is what we're looking for," Mr Clift said.
The department confirmed it was "considering options" to relocate the program.
Classes have been taught at the rented sites since mid-2016, when health and safety concerns forced students out of an education department site on the corner of Lava and Henna streets.
The Standard has previously reported a four-day increase in the number of days students were absent from Warrnambool state schools between 2013 and 2017.
Warrnambool College School Council president Leanne Williams said support for Warrnambool's vulnerable students had improved in recent years, but governments had neglected the need for a safe permanent campus for the WAVE program.
"State governments have dropped the ball. But it's been multiple," Ms Williams said.
"There was money given along the way, but it was a band-aid approach to the situation, there has been no concerted effort to turn it into the type of facility the community really needs."
She said she was confident the school had the support of the state government to resolve the situation.
"The students at WAVE deserve a better facility," Ms Williams said.
Vacated school sites languish for years
THE future of Warrnambool's former rundown WAVE school campus is uncertain three years after it was vacated due to safety concerns.
While the Victorian Department of Education and Training is preparing another two former school sites in the region for sale, a spokesman said the future of the site was "yet to be determined".
Ms Williams said students vacated the site in 2016 due to concerns about air quality and mould.
A sign at the site now warns that the building contains asbestos.
Ms Williams said while it was the department's decision what to do with the site, she would like to see the building redeveloped and used again.
"I think you'd be looking at a full redevelopment," she said. "It's a great big site. I'm sure there are people in the community that would have some excellent ideas."
Ms Williams said the site should be sold if it could not be used "effectively as a resource for the community".
The site, on the corner of Lava and Henna streets, was once a quarry and later used as a boys club to encourage men into physical activity and discipline, before then being used to encourage youth actives such as basketball and badminton.
The building is not the region's only former education site to remain vacant for an extended time, with the former Caramut Primary School and Bessiebelle Primary School sites each vacated about 15 years ago.
A department spokeswoman said those sites were now declared "surplus" and were being prepared for sale.
"We carefully consider a number of factors, including projected population and student growth, before declaring any former school site surplus," she said.
Caramut General Store co-owner Gary Toth said the town had pushed for the former school building to be occupied again.
"A lot of the town's people are wanting something done with it," Mr Toth said.
He said the site was rundown and locals did what they could to maintain it.
"I know a few of the people who keep putting their sheep on it, it's the only reason the grass is down," Mr Toth said.
He welcomed that the site would be sold, but lamented that the town had no school.
"There would be almost enough kids to justify having the school open in this area now," Mr Toth said.
South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said she raised concerns about the Caramut site three years ago when it was vandalised and posed a risk to children who used it as a playground.
"The government's inaction is leaving it as an eyesore for the community and a danger," Ms Britnell said.
She said she was unaware if the former WAVE site could find a future use because she was uncertain if it was "economically viable".
"The buildings will suit whatever the market determines, but they can't just sit there to rot," Ms Britnell said.
"That is just a poor use of taxpayer funds."
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