Parents ‘welcome’ school change

PARENTS at Hamilton Senior High School welcome its closure, even though they face a longer drive taking their children to South Fremantle, says principal Donna McDonald.

Hamilton SHS’s principal since 2007 she’s sad about “losing this lovely old lady” but parents recognise the benefits of being able to enrol their children in a school with a comprehensive academic stream.

Earlier this week WA education minister Peter Collier announced Hamilton will close and the site will be sold. Its student body will be transferred to an expanded South Fremantle SHS campus on Lefroy Road in Beaconsfield: “The site will be substantially upgraded and expanded to create the Fremantle College, at a cost of about $30 million,” Mr Collier said.

Ms McDonald said parents were initially concerned but as they’ve learned more they’ve become excited at the possibilities.

“I am also the president of the local Rotary club so I get around meeting people quite a lot, and my sense is that the community is really supportive,” she says.

“I have been proud of my staff, because all they can see is the positives.”

Some jobs are likely to be lost.

Ms McDonald says she’s already booked an appointment with the WA public transport authority to sort out bus routes and is confident it’ll be a smooth transition.

She’s also eyeing off the top job at the College, but says it’ll be advertised when the mergers happen and will no doubt attract a field of candidates.

The existing South Fremantle SHS board will be bolstered heading into the mergers with the inclusion of Curtin University professor Peter Newman and Notre Dame University education dean Michael O’Neill.

Board chair Rachel Robertson is delighted with the school’s growth, saying it adds to the impetus the school is already gaining from becoming an independent public school in 2015 (independent schools have more autonomy to make local decisions at a school board level).

Already 200 new students have enrolled, Ms Robertson says.

“We have a strong record of industry partnerships, community support and excellent student outcomes to build on in the future,” she says.

“With this announcement, we can now work towards our goal of a larger and even more successful school that retains our key values and community support but which offers additional outcomes for students.”

Fremantle Labor MLA Simone McGurk and mayor Brad Pettitt both welcome what’s being promoted as a merger, but caution it must be matched with a financial commitment from the Barnett government.

Ms McGurk says the process has taken too long and caused too much unnecessary community grief. She says parents will feel betrayed if they enrol their children at the school only to learn the much-talked about academic stream isn’t operational in its first year. Traci Gamblin, the driving force behind the lobby group High School Options for Fremantle, says her group would have much preferred to see John Curtin College of the Arts open more of its enrolment to local students. However, with that campaign lost she says it’s time to get behind Fremantle College and ensure it offers a full range of educational opportunities.


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