Rochester crossing removal angers school community

By Anna McGuinness

ROCHESTER Primary School is preparing to fight a decision made by Campaspe Shire Council to remove the school crossing in Edward St.

Principal Graeme Hodgens said losing the crossing was “absolutely devastating safety-wise”.

“Our primary kids are not safe to cross that road unsupervised,” he said.

“The highest risk for us isn’t in the school, it’s kids getting home with cars around and this will just double it. We already have one dangerous site in George St and now we’re going to have two of them.”

According to Mr Hodgens, the school had no idea the decision was coming.

“There was no meeting or consultation in the process leading up to this,” he said.

“The timing of the decision defies description, schools are just starting to bring a group of nervous and anxious students back and we are busy reassuring families that our schools are safe.”

Mr Hodgens said an “abysmal lack of communication” from council meant he had to chase up an explanation for the decision.

“I got a phone call on the Wednesday and was promised a letter to explain it, which never arrived, so I had to request it and it arrived late on Friday when everyone had left for the week,” he said.

“The impression is that we are not stake holders and it had nothing to do with us.”

Data collected by the council found an average of 30 primary and secondary students used the crossing and 57 vehicles passed through an hour, falling short of the eligibility requirement for the Victoria’s Children’s Crossing Supervisor Subsidy Scheme.

To keep the crossing running without the subsidy would cost the council $16 752 a year.

Mr Hodgens said the school could not conduct a count at the crossing itself until all students were back next week.

“An hourly survey is pretty silly because it’s the frantic 15 minutes when school finishes — nearly all the traffic would be at that one time,” he said.

Rochester Secondary School principal Melissa Gould said she was also disappointed with the lack of consultation and said her school would work with the primary school to seek clarification.

“The crossing services both schools and it’s a busy road at pick-up and drop-off; we’re concerned how students will cross safely,” she said.

A report from the recent Campaspe Shire Council meeting said the removal of the crossings might not be permanent.

“School communities change over time and foot traffic may rise again in the future, facilitating the need to review options for reinstallation of supervised crossing points,” the report said.

“The ability to provide controlled crossing points for all children walking to school that must cross a road is not possible.”

Department of Transport Northern Region director Brian Westley said ensuring children were safe around schools was absolutely vital.

"The department works closely with councils, schools and the Department of Education to provide a safe environment for Victorian children,” he said.

“The Department of Transport has provided Campaspe Shire Council with around $90 000 funding for 15 school crossings to help provide a safe journey to and from school.”

A sub-committee of the Rochester Primary School council has been formed and a strategy meeting will be held this week to decide on its next step.

The crossing will be closed at the end of term and Mr Hodgens expects the infrastructure will be removed over the school holidays.

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