At least one Northern Rivers-based school is likely to have a new permanent home thanks to extensive flood damage at its existing campus.
All buildings except Block A at The Rivers Secondary College, Richmond River High School campus were ‘beyond repair and deemed unsalvageable’, information from the state’s education department said last week.
A department spokesperson later said Richmond River High School [RRHS] would live on but most likely at a new campus, with a final call on viability of the existing campus near the Lismore showgrounds to be made by the Northern Rivers Reconstruction Commission [NRCC].
Premier Dominic Perrottet announced the NRCC in mid-April, saying a report on infrastructure repairs needed throughout the region as a result of floods in February and March would be delivered in July.
Dep’t says community supports moving Richmond River High
Acting Rivers Secondary College Executive Principal Chris Williams shared official information about the expected change of campus publicly last week, ahead of a community information session.
An education department spokesperson later told The Echo more than 80 people had participated in the meeting, and initial discussions had shown the community was supportive of rebuilding RRHS elsewhere.
An earlier statement signed by the state’s deputy secretary of school performance (north), Leanne Dixon, and chief executive of school infrastructure, Anthony Manning, had said the education department found extensive damage at the North Lismore campus during post-flood inspections.
The two department leaders said a significant ongoing risk of future flooding meant viability of a rebuild was ‘increasingly unlikely’.
A department spokesperson said future use of the site would depend on what the NRCC and other relevant agencies decided was a suitable use for the land and how it might be zoned.
NRCC will consult with community about possible school move, dep’t says
The NRCC was to start acting on recommendations from a flood inquiry led by former NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane and former NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller next month.
Ms Dixon and Mr Manning said the NRCC would consult with the RRHS community as well as other agencies and stakeholders about a campus rebuild and possible move.
‘Our priority as a department is to listen, understand and place the educational needs and wellbeing of students and staff including future students and staff at the forefront of our decision making,’ they said.
The education department was committed to ‘the provision of quality education in Lismore,’ they said, and it was ‘imperative’ any potential new location supported student learning and wellbeing.
Current RRH students were being taught at another campus in Lismore while more classrooms were being built as part of a ‘pop-up school,’ a department spokesperson later said.
Twenty-seven classrooms were ready ‘for handover’ with the rest due to be handed over in time for Term 3.
A possible new location for RRHS hadn’t yet been suggested.
Ms Dixon and Mr Manning acknowledged news of the RRHS campus damage and possible move might be ‘overwhelming’ for some and add to a ‘sense of loss’ in the community.
‘We want to assure you, our number one priority has always been and continues to be, to rebuild the Richmond River High campus,’ they wrote.