With Fern Bay Public School currently at over 200 per cent capacity, upgraded school infrastructure must be considered as part of any growth strategy for the area, says Member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp.
On Tuesday evening both Newcastle and Port Stephens councils are due to consider the Draft Fern Bay and North Stockton Strategy for public exhibition, setting out a plan for the projected 67 per cent growth in population by 2036.
Such a growth in population cannot occur without significant State investment into school infrastructure, which is already severely lacking at Fern Bay Public School. Despite Mr Crakanthorp raising this issue with the Government since 2017, there are still no plans to upgrade or expand the school. Mr Crakanthorp is urging the Minister for Education to undertake the future planning to upgrade the school as a priority.
As well as being at more than double its capacity, the school has only one permanent classroom and five demountable buildings – three classrooms, one combined administration and library building, and one toilet block. Additionally, the school does not have a hall and is forced to pay to use outside facilities for school events.
Enrolments more than doubled between 2016 and 2018, growing from 34 students to 73. Based on the availability of one permanent classroom, the current enrolment ceiling is 32 students.
“To say the facilities at Fern Bay Public School are inadequate is a gross understatement,” Mr Crakanthorp said.
“This school is bursting at the seams, there is no way it can accommodate the area’s projected growth without significant upgrades.
“The Government is aware of the population projections and needs to step in now to not only meet the needs of the current enrolment, but be able to meet the demand we know is coming.”
Mr Crakanthorp has submitted a Notice of Motion to Parliament regarding Fern Bay Public School, and asked several questions of the Minister during the recent Budget Estimates, beginning at Question 87 in the hyperlinked document.