Plans have been approved for a new conservative independent Catholic school to begin operating in Linton, with organisers hoping to have its first students enrolled next year.
The Our Lady of Fatima School will operate from the former Catholic presbytery building in Cumberland St, and in time is expected to accommodate up to 55 children from prep to year nine, and four staff.
Planning application for the primary school was first lodged with Golden Plains Shire Council last year, and after considering objections the council approved the application at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.
A small group of self-described conservative Catholics plan to renovate the St Peter's Presbytery and add a transportable toilet block. Their goal is to operate the school on the site for five years, with a long-term goal of establishing a larger campus at nearby Smythesdale.
While the Our Lady of Fatima School would follow the Catholic tradition, it would be independent of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.
The group intend to hand the presbytery back to the Linton parish in a renovated state after five years so the parish can use the premises for the benefit of the Linton community and beyond.
The group expect that within five years they will have secured a site at Smythesdale capable of growing the school to P-10 size, with VCE being offered by 2030.
Two objections were received from locals after the planning application was advertised, with key concerns relating to traffic and parking, and social impacts.
In response, council placed conditions on the permit regarding car parking and road safety improvements to "ensure the proposed use has no impact on the amenity of surrounding residents and community safety and does not cause material detriment to any person".
While council has approved the building's use as a school, it can only open after receiving approval from the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority.
"Our curriculum is taking shape and will feature a choral scholarship, innovative ICT approaches to prepare young people for the workplace, and traditional Catholic education permeating all key learning areas," organisers wrote to supporters on their website.
The group behind the school, Ballarat Frassati, plan to spend about $100,000 on renovations to the heritage building to make it appropriate for schooling. Works proposed include fencing, a new verandah deck, signage, car parking and internal alterations.
Plans submitted as part of the application to council show two classrooms, a large multi-purpose room and various offices and meeting rooms inside the existing presbytery building.
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The school is expected to draw families from the local area and across western Victoria.
"We truly believe the Church's teaching that parents are the first and best teachers, and we note that parents home-schooling their own children is a growing trend in Australia," they wrote on their website.
"However, not all Catholics who desire to home-school have the time or resources to do so. It is our mission, in co-operation with like-minded parents, to facilitate the faithful education that home-schooling provides in an independent Catholic school setting."
A GoFundMe campaign has raised almost $7000 toward the cost of renovations.
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