Unwarranted school closure

Unwarranted school closure

Maurice McGrath

Parents, students and staff of a Catholic secondary school, McAuley College, have been shocked by an announcement of its proposod closure at the end of this year.

The College at Dooboobetic, a district of Northern Victoria services the surrounding towns of Donald, Charlton, St Arnaud, Wycheproof and Wedderburn.

lt is trading in credit, and only faces a possible deficit next year if numbers are short. The effects of the drought would have had some effect. The announcement of closure "because of declining numbers" was in many people's eyes, calculated to give little warning and little opportunity to reverse the decision.

The announcement of "recommendation by the board to close the College" was given to the students in a letter to take home.

An enthusiastic group of supporters, in just three days, managed to produce the extra enrolments needed - provided, of course, it was agreed that the college would definitely open. Instead, the decision was not reversed, mainly because of the two local priests' reluctance to even entertain the thought of running at a deficit for just one year.

The following year 2005 would see a large group of primary shool students ready to enter secondary level. Bishop Connors, on Friday 24 October, "accepted the board's decision" and a letter confirming closure was given to the students as they departed from the College that night.

Letters referred to "all possible avenues being thoroughly investigated", which sounds good, but in effect did not happen. For instance, the Principal of the local TAFE would have been prepared to assist (McAuley paid them $84,000 last year) yet he assured me that they were never approached. A simple deferment of just one of the two last payments due, to completely pay off the original loan for the buildings would have easily solved the problem, if numbers were still short by next year's commencement date.

Instead, no warning was given to enable supporters to assist, before the announcement to close was made to students and on local television. I believe the financial position was far better than the parish priest's letter indicated; certainly a decent manager would have traded in the red for one year, with 2005 a bumper year following.

After years of paying it off, we are now faced with an empty college in a rural setting, and nowhere for our children to receive a Catholic education, within 70 km in any direction.

It is disappointing to note that our parish priest has not once urged or even encouraged parents to send their children to the College, to my knowledge, in the last five years and I attend Mass regularly

St Arnaud, Vic

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