Armidale Super School and air quality

Spinning super school

I notice that you have published a letter I submitted to the Express albeit under a different heading. The content of my letter is in no way a reflection the published heading  ”School will not be super”. This is a value judgment based on what? The architect for the proposed project has not even been appointed yet let alone a platform for community consultation.

My submitted heading: What really is a super School? is a question {from the point of view of an educator with more than 35 years of experience in both private and public education} that needs to be examined without blindly accepting political spin.

The Government’s current policy of amalgamating small schools into one super sized school {inevitable in densely populated areas where the population is increasing at unprecedented rates, land is not readily available and is outlandishly expensive} is not necessarily the best solution to provide best practice educational outcomes for public school students in the Armidale region. It is a very different region from areas such as those in metropolitan Sydney.

Exactly the same political spin along with exactly the same photographic image has preceded other super school projects, each of which has been accompanied by serious concerns about delivered outcomes and real problems which have emerged. Credible research has shown that problems begin to increase with student populations above 600 students. In other words the community should not be duped into blindly accepting political spin without looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of adopting Education Infrastructure NSW’s current policy without question. An economy of scale fiscal policy for the Government does not necessarily equate with the best educational outcomes for public school students.

Hopefully, informed and honest dialogue between appropriate government departments and the community will take place to ensure that the best outcomes can be realised for both the public school students in our region and the broader community, without compromising the core business of the project at the expense of realising self-interests of some sectors of the community.

The MOU from ARC administrator to the Education Minister is a necessary and responsible first step.

Jan Kleeman, Donald Creek

More information needed

At the moment I am broadly supportive of the planned new “super school”, although much more detail is needed, most importantly a real and meaningful dialogue between the Department of Education and the chief stakeholders, above all teachers, parents and pupils.

I also support the idea of this new school having a 1000 seater hall for school use, which would also be available for community use where possible, as is currently the case with the Hoskins Centre at TAS, and Lazenby Hall at UNE. However, what I do oppose is the Administrator casually committing $1 million of ratepayers’ money to this project, without even the slightest pretence of consulting the community. This million dollar commitment along with a number of other alleged spending overruns for the “new” library and in other areas, will burden future councils long after the Administrator’s tenure is over.

Another example of the contempt with which the Administrator is treating the Armidale ratepayers (who will be paying for this) is the complete lack of transparency regarding the request from the State Government for this contribution. The Administrator has so far not deigned to provide any details of any correspondence between himself and the State Government, whether this was a formal letter of request from the Department of Education, or maybe was it just a casual phone call? Surely ratepayers should know of these details before such large sums of money are committed.

We are now told that the $90,000 committed to a feasibility study for a “culture precinct” just one month ago is now redundant. Would it not be a good idea to push ahead with this study, before committing $1 million to something which may or may not be the optimum solution? I would recommend that the scope of this feasibility study be expanded to include not only the NERAM Precinct, but also the High School project, as well as options in or close to the CBD, including perhaps the under-used Showground.

Herman Beyersdorf, Armidale

Something in the air

It was reported in the Armidale Express (Friday, July 7) that Armidale will take part in a remote air monitoring program beginning next year which will be used to guide a 10 year program in improving air quality in the Armidale basin. I would like to congratulate Adam Marshall for lobbying the NSW State Government to allow Armidale to be part of this program. I would also like to thank council officers for their work in preparing a submission with a request for inclusion in this program. I would also like to thank Dr Dorothy Robinson for her tireless lobbying on the woodsmoke issue in Armidale.

In my personal submission to the NSW Clean Air Summit earlier this year, I requested that the NSW Government ‘provide Councils experiencing woodsmoke pollution problems a grant to define and map the problem zone based on inversion layer boundaries’. This remote air monitoring program will assist with collecting data in order to accurately define the problem zone. Once the data is collected, it can be analysed and solutions found to alleviate the situation. People need to be reminded that many of our schools and retirement homes are situated within the Armidale basin and concentrations of woodsmoke particulates above 2.5micrograms per cubic metre can be harmful to health.

Maria Hitchcock, Armidale