New City Beach high school site ‘urgent’

Town of Cambridge Mayor Simon Withers at City Beach Primary School with his daughters Phoebe and Hannah.
Town of Cambridge Mayor Simon Withers at City Beach Primary School with his daughters Phoebe and Hannah.

THE Education Department needs to lock down a site for the new City Beach High School so parents can start planning for their children’s future education, says Cambridge Mayor Simon Withers.

Last Tuesday, the Western Suburbs Weekly broke the news that the State Government had shortlisted the abandoned Skyline drive-in cinema and surrounding area for a secondary school.

On Thursday, Education Minister Peter Collier announced the 2000-capacity “state-of-the-art” school would open in 2019 at one of four locations – the Skyline site linked to the old City Beach Senior High School, vacant land at Fred Burton Park, the corner of The Boulevard and West Coast Highway or Rochdale and Wollaston roads.

Mr Withers said he was already investigating where his daughters Phoebe (9) and Hannah (7) would attend high school when they left City Beach Primary School.

“One of the things that this has brought home to me as a parent is that we really need certainty on the opening date,” he said.

“They cannot begin design work until the site has been determined and the way things are going that won’t be until some time next year.

“That leaves less than three years for design and construction, which makes opening in 2019 extremely challenging. I hope it does, but I wouldn’t place money on it.”

Mr Withers said that announcing four potential sites for the new school without a consultation process was “like throwing people into a piranha pond to see which ones don’t get eaten”.

He said the Education Department rushed the announcement last week because they were “chasing” the Western Suburbs Weekly’s front page story.

“It is a very odd manner to start this process without more information or a timetable for consultation,” he said.

“The Friends of Bold Park and environmental groups do not want a high school in Bold Park or Bush Forever land, and the people associated with protecting the dunes don’t want it built at Fred Burton (Park). I suspect they may have let the cat out of the bag in this manner so there will be a public backlash against environmental concerns of the other sites, which would make the old City Beach Senior High School site chosen by default.”

The former City Beach Senior High School was closed a decade ago because of “falling student numbers”, with the International School of WA (ISWA) currently leasing it from the government.

Education Minister Peter Collier said the Government would work with the Town of Cambridge, Churchlands MLA Sean L’Estrange and the western suburbs community “over the next six months” to determine a location for the new high school.

“The most practical option is the old Skyline drive-in,” Mr Collier said.

“Although we have had initial discussions with the International School of WA, we have no intention of moving them from the high school site. But ultimately when their lease runs out, that is something we need to consider.”

Mr Withers said he agreed that the old high school was the “most obvious site” with the fewest environmental issues, however but reaching an agreement with ISWA would take a long time.

“That would push the opening back even further, and see more demountables pile up at Shenton College and Churchlands,” he said.

Mr Collier said the State Government had a strategy to “ease the squeeze” on Perth’s biggest state schools, starting with a $38.8 million expansion to Churchlands Senior High School by 2018.

“We have a little bit of time up our sleeve, but not much,” he said.

“Essentially we need 2000 places by 2019, so stage one of the new City Beach High School has to be developed by 2019.”