Closure threat for two schools
FOR Trish Kelly, Murray's Bridge State School has been like a second home for many years – as a former pupil herself she has also seen her four children proudly don the bright red uniform each day.
So the announcement late yesterday that her school is one of two in the Southern Downs which could potentially be mothballed next year was “absolutely devastating”.
The Department of Education and Training released a list of 15 schools throughout the state with declining and low enrolments, including Murray's Bridge and Tannymorel state schools – both with 14 students currently enrolled.
Education and Training Minister Geoff Wilson said each year a review of all schools, including those mothballed, was conducted to ensure the department offered the best possible use of resources.
“There are always schools where enrolment numbers continue to decline and forward growth estimates show they are unlikely to increase,” Mr Wilson said.
“We have a responsibility to investigate whether their students are able to access the full range of educational opportunities.”
But for parents like Mrs Kelly, the opportunities small schools provide their children with are invaluable.
“Being a small school is one of the best things about Murray's Bridge – I like the level of attention they are getting which they just wouldn't get in a big school,” she said.
“The children feel like they're in a big family and so do the parents and staff members – it will be a big shame if we lost our school.”
Potentially having to relocate her four children to a bigger school in Warwick is something Mrs Kelly – who lives just three minutes away from their school gate – does not want to contemplate.
“Having to put the kids on a bus into Warwick is something I don't want to do, especially for my youngest in grade two,” she said.
Murray's Bridge is set to celebrate its Jubilee in 2012, having been a part of the community since 1937.
“The school is vital to keeping our community's identity... if we didn't have the school we'd have nothing,” Mrs Kelly said.
“We had some prior warning at the start of the year that we were on the list... we were told they were looking at schools with less than 15 kids so ever since then we have been keeping positive and doing what we can to promote the school.”
The school has seen a lot of changes in its 73 years and Mrs Kelly hoped it would not become an empty block of land should the decision to mothball it come to fruition.
“The surrounds are looking so beautiful at the moment due to the fundraising by the P&C and local businesses who helped build up the amenities and grounds,” she said.
“It would be a crying shame to see it go to waste.”
Minister Wilson said a series of information sessions with the school communities would be held during terms two and three.
“This is an annual process in which we carefully consider all the information and community views before making any decisions about a school's future,” he said.
“We understand the important role a school may have in a community and that's why we are inviting local residents to have their say.”
Mr Wilson said the decision to mothball a school was not the same as closing a school.
“Schools that are mothballed remain so for a period of 12 months before a final decision to close is made based on all considerations,” the Minister said.