Parents angry over crumbling classrooms

DEMOUNTABLE classrooms at Hunter River Community School leak so badly one parent sent her son to class in a raincoat, parents have said.

Parents at the special school, which is made entirely of demountables, called on the state government yesterday to replace the dilapidated structures with proper buildings.

It came as NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson, visiting the Hunter, told parents to ‘‘dob in a demountable’’ that needed replacing.

Hunter River Community School has 52 special needs students with severe and moderate disabilities.

It was established with demountables a decade ago and was promised permanent buildings.

Ten years on the school’s 11 demountables leak, smell of mould and a wooden boardwalk around them has warped, making it difficult for students with wheelchairs.

The smell overwhelms students with sensory problems and a teacher even fell through a rotting hole in the boardwalk.

The school’s Parents and Citizens group president Regina Murdoch said parents felt they had been ‘‘shoved aside’’.

‘‘Our kids are disadvantaged in life and to have to go to school in these conditions is quite depressing,’’ she said.

A NSW Education Department spokesman said it had spent $132,000 on maintenance at the school since 2007 including new carpet in four classrooms and a new roof and floor in another.

The school also received $300,000 under the stimulus package for a classroom and covered walkways.

‘‘Funding for major capital works ... takes into account priorities from around the state,’’ he said.

Opposition Leader John Robertson made his demountable plea outside The Junction Public School.

The school wants eight demountables, installed after the 1989 earthquake, replaced.

Mr Robertson said the NSW government campaigned during the election on the platform that the demountables had to go but instead scrapped a statewide replacement program.

He called on the government to deliver new classrooms in next month’s budget.

The Hunter has the second-highest number of demountables in NSW.

The Junction P and C vice-president Janet Ball said the classrooms were installed in an unplanned fashion and were ‘‘like a rabbit warren’’.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen said the Labor Party had 16 years to replace the demountables.

‘‘The Junction is my highest priority for Newcastle schools,’’ he said.

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