Fears raised over ambo station use

Concerns have been raised over the future use of Katherine’s former ambulance station.

Resident and retired school teacher Shirley Crane said there had been suggestions the former station had been earmarked as a Re-engagement Centre.

The Katherine Times reported last week the old ambulance station looks like becoming a school.

The Department of Education said it had been “in discussions” with the Department of Health at officer level for the past month.

“We have in principal agreement that the former St John’s Ambulance site is not presently in use,” a government spokeswoman said.

“Accordingly we are preparing a proposal for the Department of Health to consider that the site is used for educational purposes.”

Because of its proximity to the Kintore Street Special School most presumed it would be offered to that school.

Mrs Crane said there was some discussion the old ambulance station would instead become a Re-engagement Centre for students whose behaviour is so far outside social expectations that they are unable to be managed in a normal classroom.

Mrs Crane said she would be shocked if such a centre was located next to the most vulnerable students in the community.

“There hasn't been any consultation with the community about it, and speaking from the point of view of a retired special needs and high school teacher, I believe any such move would be a catastrophe, for both the Special School and the Re-engagement Centre.

“Students with serious behavioural issues need to be coaxed back into the mainstream student population, and the logical place to do that is within or next to the school they are expected to re-enter.

“Staged partial integration into classes that they are likely to enjoy, and access to a normal peer group, would seem to make sense.

“It would help to dilute the concentration of anti-social attitudes of a very dysfunctional group.  Putting them in an isolated building away from any contact with mainstream school doesn't allow for easy integration and will just tend to make them more likely to see school as a remote and hostile place.”

A Department of Education spokeswoman said “we are negotiating with Department of Health and have not formally secured the site”.

“We are working with a number of schools to explore potential opportunities including Kintore Street School and Katherine High School,” the spokeswoman said.

“The focus is about building on the great programs in our schools to ensure that we are providing for students and families in Katherine.

“Department of Education is looking to build on existing support for students with additional needs particularly for children of an adolescent age.

“The opportunity to expand our education footprint in Katherine is exciting and something we look forward to sharing with the community in the near future.”

Mrs Crane said hopefully, logic would prevail.

“And the Re-engagement Centre will be sited well away from the Special School, where it will be of much greater benefit to the students who are attending it, and the Special School will be given use of the much needed extra space in the building right next door.”