PLANS TO SAVE SCHOOL

Lifeline: Faced with closure, Eaglehawk Primary School may get a reprieve from the state government.
Lifeline: Faced with closure, Eaglehawk Primary School may get a reprieve from the state government.

THE state government may throw a lifeline to the beleaguered Eaglehawk Primary School.The government has been asked to accept a recommendation by a school working group to keep it operating.Bendigo East Labor MP Jacinta Allan has formally asked State Education Minister Browyn Pike to retain the 150-year-old school in the heart of Eaglehawk as a campus of the new merged school at Comet Hill.Eaglehawk was set to close at the end of the year and merge next year with Comet Hill and Bendigo North primary schools at the new site.However, if the recommendation is adopted, the Eaglehawk site will continue to operate, giving parents the chance to send their children there if they wish.One school council and principal would govern both campuses. Liberal candidate for Bendigo East Michael Langdon said the school was crucial for the continued education of future generations.Yesterday’s announcement, although a step in the right direction, was still a hollow victory for the Eaglehawk community, he said.“This is still a merger and only a second-best option for the school community. “This is an embarrassing back-down by Jacinta Allan who has supported the closure of Eaglehawk Primary School from the very beginning.’’ Ms Allan said the recommendation was made by a working group set up to examine the best use of the Eaglehawk site. The group consisted of representatives from the Eaglehawk Primary School council, the City of Greater Bendigo and the Education Department, along with parents and community members “The working group has resolved to support the continuation of primary school education on the current Eaglehawk Primary School site,’’ Ms Allan said. “This would result in the merger proceeding as planned, with Eaglehawk Primary School becoming a campus of the new school.“I will be discussing this with the Minister for Education and be urging her to support this approach.’’The decision to close the Eaglehawk school came as a shock to locals and was opposed by most parents.Former school council president and Eaglehawk resident Paul Penno said this year it would be a tragedy to see the school closed and organised a community rally and petition to save it.Declining enrolments and worn-out facilities were cited as the main reason the school council approved the merger.Opposition education spokesman Martin Dixon said even if the school were to remain open, the government might decide to punish the community for defying its wishes and starve it of much-needed funding.Under the planned merger, an $8 million early learning centre incorporating childcare, pre-school, maternal and child health, early intervention and family support and a primary school at the existing Comet Hill Primary School site are proposed.Ms Allan said she had passed on the working group’s recommendation to Ms Pike for consideration and that a decision was expected within the next couple of weeks.She said funding for the Eaglehawk school had not yet been discussed.