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School relocation plan slammed

Josh McMahon

The Maclean High Parents and Citizens group (P&C) and Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons have slammed a proposal to move the school, saying it was motivated primarily by Green political interests.

The plan has also failed to attract any support from Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis.

The plan to relocate Maclean High and revegetate the sports field and agriculture plot for flying fox habitat was recently launched by Maclean residents Karen von Ahlefeldt and Linda Wright. Both have been open about membership of the Greens party, but have emphasised they were motivated by wanting to help students and were acting on behalf of concerned parents.

Proponents of the plan said they had received strong community support, but this has now been countered by strong criticism from the school’s parent body, and the mayor.

Maclean High P&C president Sarah Armstrong said the proposal had no support from the P&C, and proponents had not consulted the P&C.

“The view of the P&C is we know from dealing with the department of education that there is not going to be funding for a new high school – the areas that are getting new schools have higher population growth,” she said.
“The group is saying very damning things about the high school that we don’t think are correct … it’s not helpful for people without involvement with the high school to make these comments. The parent body certainly thinks it’s important for anyone making comment to talk to people who are actually involved with the school.”

Ms Armstrong added that the P&C felt that proponents of the plan to relocate Maclean High were motivated by “an interest in what happens to the flying foxes”.

The group pushing for relocation of the school cited an extensive list of reasons a new school was needed, including: inappropriate location due to proximity to flying fox colony, a flood-prone river, and cemetery; poor learning environment for students and teachers; no room to expand to cater for growing population; inadequate facilities including lack of a suitable location for HSC exams; the need for additional student places in the Clarence with Grafton High at full capacity; and a range of other problems at the school that have allegedly led to students leaving.

Ms von Ahlefeldt stood by the group’s criticisms of the school, saying that she was representing the views of the many concerned parents with whom she had spoken.

Mayor Jim Simmons was scathing in his criticism of the push to relocate Maclean High, labelling it as “stupid” and rejecting claims it was supported by the community.

“The proposal is by a predominantly Green group, and would not be acceptable to the Maclean community. The Maclean community wants to keep the school where it is,” Mayor Simmons said.

The mayor said he believed enrolments were falling at the school because of increasing competition from other schools in the Clarence region, including relatively new schools in the Clarenza area near Grafton. He said he believed there was plenty of choice for students in choosing a school, and there was no basis for a new school in the Maclean area.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis also said he believed there was little merit in creating a new school, as there wasn’t great demand for increased student capacity, and the school wasn’t at the age where it would need to be replaced.

Mr Gulaptis added there was no guarantee flying foxes would relocate should new habitat be provided, and the problem would remain for residents and TAFE.

Ms von Ahlefeldt said the group would continue to lobby to relocate the school.