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This will be the site for a school

7 May 2013

Following a sustained campaign by Two Schools Now, the Age brought the news on Sunday that money would be set aside in the state budget to purchase the site in Ferrars St for a new school. The budget allocation is expected to be for the site acquisition and site planning. Further funding will be required to build the school by which time other developments in Montague will be well underway.

In case you are not familiar with the site at 129-161 Ferrars St, here is a picture of the frontage of the site which is currently owned by Melbourne University.  The site is well located for South Melbourne, Southbank, Montague and public transport.

Good news though this is, it is clear that there is still a long road ahead. Involving parents, community leaders and educators throughout the long gestation of the school will be important because this will not be a conventional school along familiar lines. It will be a school in a high rise, high density context.

Examples of other schools in such locations around the world will need to be explored for relevance and adaptation to this context. The site is surrounded by many potential high rise development sites. It makes sense that all developments being planned and their surroundings should be child and family friendly. Every new development near the site should now actively consider its proximity to the school in the analysis of the site context.

The interfaces of the new residential developments to Ferrars St will need to be pedestrian friendly and entry points to garages will need to be thought through. The current approach is driving the kids to school will not be an option in this location.

That means that even though the site is very well situated for the 96 tram route, the access and approaches will need to be strengthened and made safe for pedestrians.

The processes for establishing not just a building but a community around Albert Park Secondary College are a good reference point for this long haul towards a new model school of excellence for the future.

All this suggests that community involvement in a precinct plan for Montague that considers community infrastructure, open space and access and movement networks is essential.

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