By Colin MacGillivray
SEVEN schools across the City of Whittlesea have received a combined $846,561 in State Government funding to complete a range of upgrades and extensions.
The money was allocated as part of the government’s $70 million Minor Capital Works Fund, which gives funding boosts for small but important upgrade works.
Doreen’s Ashley Park Primary School received $138,390 for the construction of a senior playground and a creative play space.
Principal Keren Barro said the money would go a long way at the rapidly expanding school.
“We’re extremely excited because it will mean we can now put in a senior playground with shade over it. We can also develop a creative play space with cubbies and have it as an area where children can participate in more creative activities during lunchtime and recess,” she said.
“It’s probably been something we’ve wanted to put in since we opened [in 2019].
“We were fortunate to be provided with funding for a junior playground not long after we opened. Our school events team has also worked hard to keep fundraising for the senior playground, but there have been competing priorities.
“A good playground is quite expensive, so to get the funding for it takes the pressure off the school community because it doesn’t seem like an insurmountable challenge now.
“We opened with 72 children and next year we’re expecting 265, so this will be great for the senior students to have their own space.”
Ms Barro said the new playground would give students more recreation options during recess and lunchtimes.
“We’ve got plenty of open space for the kids who like sport and want to run around, but we really wanted some other play environments for children who like to play differently,” she said.
“A playground will always anchor kids and it’s a really good point for them to head to if they’re not as sporty.
“My year sixes will probably be disappointed that they won’t get to play on it.”
Mernda Central College was another beneficiary in the City of Whittlesea, receiving $308,796 for the construction of a bus shelter and bike shed.
Laurimar Primary School received $124,965 for a staff room expansion and Mernda Park Primary School was awarded $106,165 to upgrade playground equipment and build shade sails for senior students.
Towards the south, Plenty Parklands Primary School received $500,000 for roof replacement works across buildings, Mill Park Primary School $138,125 to replace windows and Thomastown Primary School $30,120 for the refurbishment of courtyard and kitchen areas.
Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said it was good to see several schools across the north of the City of Whittlesea receive money.
“We are making sure that students in the north have access to the best school facilities and a great education,” she said.
“This investment is vital to our economic recovery and creating jobs in the ‘Education State’.”
Education Minister James Merlino said the money was part of the government’s $3 billion committed to school upgrades in the 2020-21 State Budget.
Most of the funding went towards new schools and major upgrades to existing schools, but Mr Merlino said it was equally important to fund smaller projects that would make a big difference to local schools.
“Every student should have a great school, no matter where they live. That’s why we’re investing in hundreds of small but important projects that will make a big difference for schools and create jobs for Victorians,” he said.
“Whether it is upgrading toilets or building a new fence – this is all about making sure our students have the facilities they need.”
Mr Merlino said the State Government had invested more than $9 billion in more than 1600 school upgrades during the past five years. The money was estimated to have created more than 10,000 construction jobs.