Parents safety concerns

02 Mar 2018 Wangaratta Chronicle, Wangaratta VIC (General News) by Simone Kerwin Unsafe power switchboard yet another issue for school stretched to capacity SAFETY concerns have emerged as a new issue confronting Wangaratta District Specialist School on its landlocked Appin Street campus, according to parents. The WDSS school council was informed last week that the schools main power switchboard was unsafe, and quotes were urgently required for a full upgrade, with initial cost estimates between $15,000 and $20,000. School council president Ruth Crawford said the switchboard was the one installed when the school was first built in 1986, and it had been stretched beyond capacity as enrolment had grown from an initial nine students to its current 162. We are told it does not meet expected standards and needs to be replaced as soon as possible, Mrs Crawford said. The switchboard is overloaded due to the addition of numerous portable classrooms and lack of forward planning or resources to support the growth of our school; too many extra circuits have been added to the original building switchboard. Mrs Crawford said power to the school was known to cut out when a large number of the classroom air conditioners or heaters were operating. She said the school had applied to the Department of Education for emergency maintenance financial support to cover the cost. Regardless of the outcome of this application for financial support, our school will have the switchboard replaced as soon as possible, Mrs Crawford said. She said the unreliability of the old switchboard was another indication of the need for a new, larger building to meet the schools growing needs. WDSS has made its case for a new school over recent years, and is hoping to win funding in the 2018-19 State Government budget for planning and/ or to construct a purpose-built school, to ensure its facilities match demand for its services. Mrs Crawford and fellow parents Nicola Coates, Tim Hearn and Darryl Henwood expressed their concern. If your child cant be warm in winter and cool in summer, its of concern theyre basic needs and then there is the safety issue, Ms Coates said. Mr Hearn said the site of the main switchboard at the school entrance created the potential for a disastrous situation. It highlights the fact the school has been overlooked in terms of keeping pace with demand, and its now got to breaking point, he said. Mr Henwood agreed: Considering how vulnerable our students are anyway, it increases that vulnerability. I dont understand why they have to keep putting up with these facilities. Jenny Kardol cares for her grandchild who attends WDSS, and said it was very frightening to hear of the safety concerns. Just think, if there was a fire, for the safety of everyone, where do you go? Everywhere you go, theres a building, she said. Its avoidable, but it just seems like nobodys listening. A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the department had not yet received an application from the school for emergency maintenance financial support, and was seeking more information from WDSS about the issue. The safety and wellbeing of students and staff in our schools is paramount, and that includes providing a safe workplace, the spokesperson said. The school has been proactive by seeking quotes for repairs, keeping parents updated and engaging with the department, and that is exactly how a potential routine risk should be managed. A spokesperson for Jaclyn Symes (MLC, Northern Victoria) yesterday said: Ms Symes understands that the school is communicating directly with the Department of Education, who is waiting for an application from the school for emergency maintenance support. Ms Symes is positive that between the school leadership team and the Department of Education, this issue should be solved shortly. Caption Text: HAZARD: Nicola Coates, Tim Hearn, Ruth Crawford and Darryl Henwood, parents of Wangaratta District Specialist School students, are concerned about the safety risk posed by the overloaded electrical system at the Appin Street school. PHOTO: Emma HillierLicensed by Copyright Agency. You may only copy or communicate this work with a licence.