By Colin MacGillivray
Amid the collapse of Kilmore’s Colmont School, teachers were left with only one question – why?
School staff said they were just as blindsided by the school’s closure as parents and students, only finding out late on Wednesday that administrators had been appointed.
Year 10 coordinator Joanne Treanor said staff were ‘devastated’ for the school’s students, and angry at the lack of transparency surrounding the closure.
On Friday Ms Treanor said teachers were still unsure of who would be able to remain at Colmont to support year 11 and 12 students as they transitioned to other schools.
“We haven’t had any information whatsoever forthcoming to say what it’s going to look like,” she said.
“I don’t know whether that will come from the administrators or the existing deputy principals. It is just a waiting game at the moment.”
Colmont’s international baccalaureate, IB, program coordinator Deanna Krilis said the teachers were determined to rally behind the remaining students.
“I want to reassure families that the year 12 staff in particular are working really hard to support year 12 students who are in the final stages of [the IB] program,” she said.
“We’re working on VTAC applications, final submissions, completing coursework and everything else so that when they do move to a new IB school they’re only focusing on their final exams next term.
“That’s the priority for the year 12 teachers. We’re hoping we get a bit longer with them, but we’ve not been told how long we actually have.”
Fewer than 20 schools in Victoria offer the IB program as an alternative to VCE, and Ms Krilis said many had thrown their support behind Colmont.
“The IB schools community has been incredible in their show of support and offers to help in any way possible, even if it means arranging buses and putting on staff or having online arrangements for subjects they don’t run, just to get our students through to a successful standard,” she said.
“The IB world is so powerful and so caring. We really do pull together.”
Ms Krilis blasted the school’s handling of the closure, saying the staff felt ‘betrayed’ by the school board and leadership.
She said teachers were waiting for answers alongside families.
Colmont year five and six coordinator Julie Daniells said when she was told of the school’s closure her first thoughts were of her students.
“[The first thing that goes through your head is] how can something like this happen, and what’s going to happen to the kids?” she said.
Ms Daniells praised the students as ‘the most resilient, amazing group of people’.
“I don’t know if the gravity of it has hit them yet. It will at some point, but if they can maintain where they are at the moment, that’s a good thing,” she said.
“They have the most amazing, phenomenal staff looking after them at the moment – we’ll see them get through.”
The Independent Education Union, IEU, said in a statement they would continue to work with members at Colmont to offer support.
“We’re devastated for staff, students and their families. Too many kids will be searching for a place to continue their schooling on Monday, and too many staff members will be looking for new jobs – not an easy task in a regional area,” they said.
“We are working with relevant authorities and our … members at Colmont. We’ll be meeting members at the school to ensure they have support and advice during this difficult period.”
Independent Schools Victoria, ISV, chief executive Michelle Green said the advocacy body would work with school regulator the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, as well as the Department of Education and Training, to find alternatives for Colmont’s students.
“Our immediate priority is to do anything we can to ensure disruption to students’ education is minimised,” she said.
“This sudden news is distressing for the students, their families and their dedicated teachers, and for everyone concerned about school education.”
Ms Green said ISV only recently became aware of the extent of the financial difficulties facing the school.
“While we were aware that the school board was seeking financial support in recent weeks, we did not know the extent of its financial difficulties. The school’s efforts, supported by ISV, to secure short-term financial support were unfortunately unsuccessful.”