The NSW Coaltion government has given James Packer's monster casino approval to take prime inner city space in Sydney, but children from an inner city public school are set to be kicked out for several years as the space is sold off to property developers.
In plans that have outraged parents and the local community, the state government plans to sell the Ultimo Primary School site to developers to build a high-rise tower housing 200 apartments. Once the apartment block is built, the primary school would become a tenant in the building, enclosed in floors of the tower.
In place of the current playground, the 600 students would have access to a wire-meshed "exercise yard". Parents are disgusted at what they call the idea of "caging" their children.
The construction of the new apartments would take years and current students would be forced to attend other inner city schools, which are already crowded. The proposed tower would be among the tallest residential apartment buildings in Sydney.
City News reported that concerned community members and the school community met on November 7 to express opposition to the plan, and to begin a campaign to fight the school sell-off.
The school’s Parents and Citizens Association said the plan was "madness". P & C President Bill d’Anthes said: “We could not be more strongly opposed to this so-called concept plan, which on the face of it seems like utter lunacy.”
President of the Pyrmont Community Group, Jean Stuart, said: “Children need and deserve the optimum learning environment. Who in their right mind could think this was optimal?”
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson and new state member for Sydney Alex Greenwich have condemned the sell-off plan. The Greens said developer needs were being put ahead of students.
Greens MP John Kaye said the high-rise plan would drive children out of public education and into private schools.
The sell-off is part of the O'Farrell government's $1.7 billion cuts to education.
The Daily Telegraph suggested that the attempt to cash in on “valuable property assets” is not limited to Ultimo primary school. Education department director Tony McCabe, who revealed the Ultimo plan at a P&C meeting, reportedly told parents that similar sell-off plans were being considered for other schools.