Willyama’s future… School’s out for summer

Minister for Education and Early Learning, Prue Car, was in Broken Hill on Tuesday morning to talk to students, teachers, and principals following the closure of Willyama High School after the detection of mould over the summer holidays.

“At this stage, we’re not sure whether Willyama needs to be demolished,” said the Minister.

“We will be, as a government, making that decision based on expert independent hygienist advice, because that’s what we should be basing our decisions on,” Minister Car said.

The mould discovery led to the relocation of some 600 pupils and has impacted several schools in the city.

As anxiety within the community grows and concerns continue to intensify after news mould remediation works are set to be more extensive and take longer, Ms Car said no concrete decision about the future of Willyama High School had yet been made.

“We await the final report of the independent hygienist – we expect that imminently in the next few weeks. When that is received, we will be in a position to be able to consult with the community about what happens about Willyama. If it is so unsafe that it has to be demolished, then that is something that we’re not ruling out as a government.

“The biggest priority, ground zero for us, is the safety of students and staff. If we have to demolish it, we will have to demolish it. I just want to be really clear with the community because I know there’s a lot of anxiety about this.

“We will consult about what happens if we need to build a new school. It will be deep, meaningful, and real consultation with these communities affected.

“If the consultation comes back and clearly says ‘we want two schools to remain’, then the consultation will clearly be that two schools should remain.

“I just want to ease people’s anxieties about any decision being made at any point about that. Nothing will be made without significant consultation with these communities.”

Many in Broken Hill have requested photos of the mould be released to the public and while Ms Car hadn’t been to the quarantined site at Willyama HS or seen any photos herself, she expects visual images to be included in the independent hygienist’s report.

“As I’ve said really clearly, that will be made public to the people of this community. If there are any photos as a result of that, that will be clear. We’ll be very transparent about this.

“I haven’t seen any photos, but if there are photos as part of the independent hygienist’s work, they’ll be made public when the report is presented to government.”

Term 1 this year has seen Willyama HS students spread across Broken Hill North Public School (Year 7 and 8), Morgan Street Public School (Year 9 and 10), and Broken Hill High School (Year 11 and 12). Come the start of Day 1, Term 2, each year level will be placed at Broken Hill High School.

“The effort that has gone in to just make sure that these kids continue to get an educational provision has just been second to none. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like the effort that we’ve seen here at Broken Hill,” the Minister said of the city schools’ leaders, principals, teachers, and staff stepping up to accommodate students from Willyama High School.

Pop-up demountables were brought across from Sydney earlier this month and have been set up on the schoolgrounds of Broken Hill High School.

Ms Car said that while she couldn’t confirm how long the pop-up school would be in operation, she hoped it would be a medium-term solution.

“We’re concentrating on ensuring that the education provision continues at all of these schools and then getting the temporary school up here at Broken Hill High School up and running,” she said.

“That pop-up school of demountables, we will make sure that it is sufficient to provide the teaching of the curriculum for the students at Willyama, because this is what public education does. Our teachers in the classrooms with their expert practice delivering the curriculum, that needs to continue.

“No one wants the students and teachers at Willyama to be in a temporary school for longer than is necessary. That is a less than ideal solution, but it’s the best that we can actually do working together, at this point. We do not want to see this medium-term solution in place longer than it needs to be.

“Whatever we need to do to make sure that we have the right facilities in the short-to-medium-term to deliver the curriculum, we will do. It’s not a matter of ‘can we do it?’. We have to deliver the curriculum so we will deliver the curriculum.”


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