Haileybury College will open a CBD-based campus, after Melbourne councillors last month unanimously approved its proposal for a vertical school.
The private school will open an early learning centre at the campus as early as next year and will cater for prep-to-year-12 students from 2017 and 2018.
The school will be a first for the city and comes as great relief to inner-city families lacking local schooling options.
The approval is particularly impressive considering the school proposal was initially met with 62 objections relating primarily to traffic and congestion concerns.
However, following a consultation session with objectors, by the time councillors considered the proposal at the September 6 Future Melbourne Committee Meeting not one objection remained.
This major turn-around was achieved after the private school agreed to drop the number of enrolled students from 1300 students by 2025 to 774 students.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle expressed his amazement at the turn of events, saying he had “never seen this before”.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen an application where there were 62 objections and no objections on the night (the proposal was considered by council) because the applicant has been prepared to work with those objections, particularly around number of students and therefore traffic and I think that is a great credit to Haileybury,” Cr Doyle said.
Councillors were very supportive of the project but Cr Jackie Watts also commented on the need for public schooling in the city, saying: “I hope it will be complemented before too long with some state education.”
The approved proposal will see an existing 10-storey vacant office tower on King St, just west of LaTrobe St, refurbished to cater for an early learning centre and a prep-to-year-12 school.
The school, which also has campuses in Keysborough, Brighton and Berwick, purchased the building from Singaporean developer Aspial Corporation last year for $50 million.
Haileybury College principal Derek Scott said the school started to consider a CBD school six years ago and began closely analysing demographic data.
“It became clear about four years ago that trends were continuing and that the short-term trends and long-term demographic trends were in support of an inner-city school,” Mr Scott said.
He said a KPMG study commissioned by the school supported the long-term trends over the next 30 years.
Mr Scott said the school hoped to begin refurbishment work in November.
Refurbishment plans include alterations to the buildings exterior; outdoor play areas on the podium and building roofs and sports and indoor recreation facilities on the top floor.
The proposal also includes a plan to create a pick-up and drop-off area on the upper level of the basement to avoid traffic congestion on the street. School starting times will also be different for the junior, middle and senior schools to lessen the impact of students arriving and departing.
Mr Scott said the school didn’t want to bring more cars into the city and would be covering the cost of public transport for staff.
“We think this should be an opportunity to provide an education facility that’s sustainable and sees people walk, ride bikes and catch public transport in,” Mr Scott said.
He said the school had already received an “extraordinary response” from the public with two-thirds of enquiries about plans for the school coming from within the City of Melbourne region.
Mr Scott said most of the enquiries had been received from the CBD, Docklands, Kensington and West Melbourne from people struggling to find spaces for their children in local schools.
The early learning centre component of the school could open as soon as next year, followed by prep through to year 10 in 2017. Years 11 and 12 would start in 2018.