COMMUNITY members fear the Landsdale School Farm will close after the State Government announced that it would cut funding for the facility by the end of the year.
The December announcement was part of a Department of Education move to stop $64 million in funding by 2019 for facilities including residential colleges in Moora and Northam, and Tuart and Canning colleges.
In fear of the funding cuts forcing the farm school to close, local residents created an online petition in support of the facility continuing educational services to students and children with disabilities.
It has more than 9000 signatures and there’s also a petition with more than 500 signatures fighting the possible closure that’s been circulated at the Haystack Cafe located on the farm school grounds.
Kinglsey MLA Jessica Stojkovska, whose daughter celebrated her 2nd birthday at the farm, said the facility wouldn’t be closed and that the Government was looking at finding alternate management for the site.
“The Government plans to remove the school as a gazetted ‘school’ because there are no students enrolled there and gift it to the City of Wanneroo or another not-for-profit organisation,” she said.
“It will not be closed; it’s just losing its title as a school.
“The current usage is 80 per cent community use with only 20 per cent education use, which is why it is being closed as a school but not as a community facility.”
Former Landsdale Farm School principal Ted Kelley, who retired in 2016, said he didn’t agree with the claims about the usage of the facility.
“There were 10,000 students here last year, that’s an average of 50 students here per day,” he said.
“The issue is that we don’t have any students here enrolled as our own but a lot of high school students are doing vocational training here, we provide a facility for them, not the staff, and it’s a great environment if they’re studying things like horticulture.”
Mr Kelley, who got involved with the school in 1982, said the community raised the $5 million to build the farm on 4ha of land at Landsdale Drive in Darch, which was donated by the department.
“Although the Government claims the school costs too much, it only puts in under about $1 million a year for staff,” he said.
“The farm generates about $400,000 a year itself but that all goes back into the farm.
“The department not funding the farm is not a big issue, providing we find another funder.”
North Metropolitan MLC Tjorn Sibma said funding cuts could jeopardise programs provided by a range of groups at the facility, including Family Support WA.
Mr Sibma said any decision to gift the land to the City of Wanneroo was an indication that Education Minister Sue Ellery refused to listen to user groups or been transparent about Government savings.
“The Minister has not been upfront about the alleged savings,” he said.
“I’ll be seeking clarification of this point in Parliament, but early indications are that it would be less than $900,000 per year, through sacking staff.”
Mr Sibma will be taking a petition to Parliament in March asking the Government to reverse its position.
Mrs Stojkovska, a mother-of-two who used to go to the facility for mothers’ group, said she would be fighting to ensure the facility retained its workability.
“If new management decide to bring in their own staff, the department will help relocate existing farm staff,” she said.
“But I can’t comment too much on that as negotiations haven’t been finalised yet.”
Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said the City, which to date has had no involvement with the school, received a letter from the Department of Education advising they’d be in touch to discuss future options for the school site, but didn’t provide further context for the discussion.
Community News contacted Education Minister Sue Ellery’s office for comment.