Reopening former government schools should be explored as a way to ease enrolment pressure where a more permanent solution to growing demand is needed, the peak body for public school communities says.
The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations said they would welcome any approaches to ease pressure on government schools in Canberra, as long as it did not come at the expense of community facilities.
"We'd much prefer them to open an old school site and renovate it to make sure it's safe, than make compromises on existing school sites," council spokeswoman Janelle Kennard said.
The education directorate's deputy director-general, Deb Efthymiades, did not rule out reopening schools in Canberra as a solution to growing school demand in a radio interview on Tuesday.
"I wouldn't say that anything is off the books," Ms Efthymiades told ABC radio.
Ms Efthymiades said the government had not yet been in a position where it needed to provide another school and it was still able to guarantee places for children in priority catchment areas.
"If there's existing land around a current school, we're more likely to expand that than starting a new one from scratch. But if we get to the point where a new school is required, then we look at what land is available. Government land is always first in that consideration," she said.
Education Directorate figures previously provided to The Canberra Times show an extra 579 primary students are expected to enrol across all inner-north public schools by 2030.
Majura Primary School, Lyneham Primary School and North Ainslie Primary School have all been identified as facing significant increases in enrolments.
Ms Efthymiades also said considerable planning was under way to provide enough school places around the rapidly growing Woden town centre, flagging future government announcements.
Education Minister Yvette Berry did not directly respond to questions about the expected cost of reopening school sites or whether any feasibility studies had been completed.
A spokeswoman for the minister said the ACT government was not considering closing any schools to redirect resources to growth areas.
"The ACT government is already considering how best to respond to growth within established areas - like the inner north - where there is limited availability of vacant or buildable land," the spokeswoman said.
"We do know, and our enrolment projections show, that additional primary school and high school capacity will be required in the Inner North within this decade.
"Detailed analysis and planning for responses to enrolment growth are under way and continuing, with any future investment subject to decisions of government."
The Stanhope government closed a raft of government schools in 2006. In the years since, the number of public school students in the ACT has grown significantly, jumping more than 12 per cent in the four years to August 2020.
In August 2006, 35,178 students were enrolled across 95 government schools in the ACT. In August 2020, 50,331 students attended 88 government schools.
The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations has previously called on the ACT government to consider building the territory's first vertical school along the light-rail corridor in a bid to increase capacity in the city's north.
Opposition education spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the government's management of education infrastructure had created a chaotic situation.
Mr Hanson said the government's failure to anticipate future school demand had been woeful, but reopening schools should be considered as an option.
"The consequence of that, of course, is that these school sites are often being used by other community groups, and I would imagine need significant refurbishment, including making sure there's no hazard from asbestos or lead paint, before being used," Mr Hanson said.
with Alex Crowe
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: