Shopping centre Docklands Primary School campus set for Term 3, but concerns remain
A temporary campus for the at-capacity Docklands Primary School is set to welcome students from July, but concerns remain about the shopping centre space allocated by the state government.
The proposed new classrooms, in repurposed retail space at The District Docklands, will feature desks and chairs for students and teachers, bag storage units and interactive screens.
The Department of Education was forced to find a new home for students after it underestimated enrolment numbers at the local school, which opened in 2021.
It told Docklands News that the design and layout of the new space had been done in close discussions with the school.
“The interim campus is on track to open in term three,” a Department of Education spokesperson said.
“The new campus will include up to nine additional classrooms, two of which are being designed as flexible spaces, plus additional multi-purpose spaces.”
“The design of the new campus was developed in close consultation with the school to ensure the space will be a vibrant addition for the school.”
However, parent Mary Masters, who has been an active part of discussions with the department, said she believed the school community’s concerns and suggestions weren’t being addressed.
Ms Masters said they had asked for the new temporary campus to feature play space to reduce the number of times each day children were required to move back and forth to the main Docklands Primary School campus, which sits around 200 metres away.
They argued that the new 225-student space would not reach capacity immediately, therefore some of the new campus space with “no natural light” and “internal structural bollards” could instead be adapted.
“The DPS community begged the department to repurpose the unsuitable classrooms into free play space for the children,” she said.
“There was a version of the plans that school council endorsed [where] the architects designed a layout with a small sports court and room for free play. This directly responded to the school’s concerns for student safety and wellbeing in reducing the number of times per day children will be required to be chaperoned between the two campuses.”
However, there was no indication that those plans were being considered.
“The plans that the department is currently progressing with do not address the school’s concerns,” she said.
It is disingenuous for them to say that the campus was designed in ‘close consultation with the school’. Feedback provided from the school community and school leadership has been ignored or rebuffed.
The Department of Education has signed a five-year lease for the empty retail space, and it has been confirmed that there is an option to extend the agreement beyond 2028.
It is understood the wider school community is not against a temporary campus as a solution to space issues at the main campus, which was already housing more than its 525-student capacity.
School leadership and parents, however, are eager to ensure learning outcomes aren’t compromised at the new space.
With around 100 prep students starting each year, Docklands Primary will soon have more than 700 pupils.
The department has previously reiterated the suitability of the new campus, and said an assessment of the site for operational, security and infrastructure needs had found that the location of the additional space was appropriate.
It said the shopping centre campus was required on a temporary basis until additional capacity was generated within the local network of new nearby schools; firstly, a newly opened North Melbourne Primary School campus and the future development of additional primary schools within Fishermans Bend. •