Gym roof’s collapse freshblow to HSHS

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Dean Alston cartoon. Port Hedland High School.
Camera IconDean Alston cartoon. Port Hedland High School. Credit: The West Australian

The gym roof at the only high school in Port Hedland has fallen down, leaving students without indoor, air-conditioned sporting facilities.

It comes just two months after Education Minister Sue Ellery said run-down Hedland Senior High School had received all the necessary funding for repairs in response to a push by residents and parents for more to be done about the “substandard” school facilities.

Department of Education executive director of infrastructure John Fischer confirmed the collapse happened last weekend but said there was no risk of injury to students or staff.

“The gym is out of order until early next week while remediation works are undertaken to ensure the area is safe for students to use until the end of the term,” he said. “Over the Christmas holidays, the entire ceiling will be replaced.”

The gym is part of the original school buildings, built almost 50 years ago.

A new facility forms part of works currently being done at the school, with completion set for mid-2022.

Ms Ellery’s comments earlier this year were made in response to a North West Telegraph report that HSHS did not receive a cent in the Pilbara Recovery Plan funding, while others such as the newly built Karratha Senior High School were handed millions.

Parents and staff at the South Hedland school said buildings and facilities had become severely run-down because of a lack of maintenance, while computers and other equipment were broken and students were forced to sit outside without adequate shade structures.

The school received $15 million through Royalties for Regions last year after former principal Bill Mann penned a letter to the State Government saying it was in a state of disrepair.

A Hedland SHS parent, who did not want to be named, said a long-term plan for the high school needed to be outlined.

“The students and staff deserve better,” they said.

“Thankfully no students were in the vicinity when the damage occurred. The situation could have been much worse.”

But calls for additional funds from the WA Government to fix issues at the school were dismissed by Ms Ellery, who said it had “all the necessary funding”.

“The recovery fund allocated funds to some 60-odd schools out of the 800 across Western Australia,” she said.

“Not every school got funding.

“The decision of which schools were included was driven by a couple of things — their enrolment pressure and when they last got an upgrade.

“The $15m for Hedland was a serious investment and it addressed the things the school asked us to address.”

WA Liberals candidate for Pilbara Camilo Blanco said the incident was further evidence of neglect by the State Government. “The Labor Government has ignored their statutory obligation to ensure a safe learning environment and workplace,” he said.

“This incident could have clearly injured staff or students, it’s just pure luck that did not happen,” he said.

“The sports hall roof collapse is not a surprise, the maths department roof leaks excessively as well, the maths ceiling collapses all the time, but the roof still has not been replaced because it’s just too expensive to do.”“When the Education department kills a child or staff member, they may act, but that is called neglect and incompetence and the should be held personally accountable.”

WA Nationals candidate for Pilbara Scott Bourne said the situation with funding at Hedland SHS was “a disgrace”.

“All the Government has done is offer a BHP funded band-aid to a gaping wound,” he said.

“Hedland deserves better.”

Ms Ellery said the difference the “significant amount of money” would make should not be underestimated.

“The Hedland upgrade is a major part of the almost $100 million that has been committed to improving education facilities across the Pilbara, which will be transformational both socially and economically for the community,” she said.

“I think it is important we do that given the role the Pilbara plays in the State’s prosperity.”

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