Angry Windermere community takes on government over school sale

AN ANGRY Windermere community will campaign against a state government decision to sell its almost 160-year-old primary school. 

Campaign: Yuille Park Community College principal Clete Paige at the former Windermere Primary School which he wants turned into an environmental education centre rather than sold off. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

Campaign: Yuille Park Community College principal Clete Paige at the former Windermere Primary School which he wants turned into an environmental education centre rather than sold off. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

The state government confirmed the sale on Wednesday, despite receiving submissions for the site to be turned into an environmental education centre. 

Heading the campaign to stop the sale is Yuille Park Community College principal Clete Paige, who said the sale was “flawed” because it wouldn’t attract a significant return and it minimised education in the region. 

“It’s a real shame that the pen pushers and bean counters of the government fail to listen to us and proceed with the sale,” Mr Paige 

said. 

“We need to maximise resources like this, not sell them off for a short-term gain. The long-term possibilities for education

around this site are enormous.

“No longer, after 157 years, will this site be used for education... and it’s sad.”

Mr Paige said he had submitted a plan to the Department of Education for the site to be used as a “Ballarat-wide” environmental education centre. 

“That fell on deaf ears,” he said. 

“It would have been a great option, including tree planting, horticulture and land care education... and it wasn’t only going to be for our students, it would have been a resource for schools all over Ballarat.”

Mr Paige said the community was saddened by “government policy” and would campaign over the coming weeks to stop the sale. 

Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips said it was “declining enrolments” which closed Windermere Primary School in 2012, adding that the option to retain the school for an alternative educational use “did not present a sufficiently strong education provision argument for the economic use of the site”.

“All surplus land is always first offered for sale to all other Victorian government departments and agencies, as well as to local government and the Commonwealth government, before being listed for public sale,” Mr Rich-Phillips said. 

Those trying to save the school are inviting anyone to attend the site next Monday, as part of National Tree Day, to show their support. 

Organisers have invited local councillors and relevant ministers to the start of the campaign.

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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