THE 2020 opening of a Catholic high school in Medowie is expected to slash travel time for many of the area’s primary schoolers, who would otherwise face sitting in transit for more than two hours each day to attend high school in Newcastle.
The Catholic Schools Office (CSO) held a ceremony on Friday to announce the new school on Medowie Road would be named Catherine McAuley Catholic College, in honour of the Irish nun whose vision contributed to the provision of education across the Hunter.
Director of Catholic Schools, Ray Collins, said some families living on the peninsula had been travelling for up to 75 minutes each way to attend San Clemente in Mayfield and Saint Francis Xavier’s College at Hamilton.
“They’ve been asking for a school on and off for 10, 15 or more years,” Mr Collins said.
“By the time they come home after school it’s too late to do sporting activities and dance classes. This school will give them the opportunity to still be a part of their communities.
“When consultation began, Nelson Bay parents were among the most passionate – this school will cut half an hour off their trip into town.”
Mr Collins said the school expected between 150 to 180 students in the first year seven cohort, mostly from feeder schools St Brigid’s Primary at Raymond Terrace, St Michael’s Primary at Nelson Bay and St Joseph’s Primary at Bulahdelah. He said he expected construction to start in 2018 and the school to eventually cater for between 900 and 1200 students.
Mr Collins said Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy, which established schools in Tarro, East Maitland, Raymond Terrace, Nelson Bay, Stockton and schools that have since closed in Millers Forest and Morpeth.
“The Sisters of Mercy made a wonderful contribution not only to education but also to healthcare, with the Mater Hospital,” he said. “The majority of our schools are named after male saints, so it’s been good to give recognition to a female and to the sisters for the contribution they made.”
The CSO will open St Bede’s Catholic College in Chisholm in 2018. Mr Collins said the diocese had also bought land on the outskirts of Cessnock, as part of its “mid term planning”.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington congratulated the diocese for “planning for the future” and said the school would be a “fantastic asset for Medowie”.
“But this does not get the government off the hook of delivering a public high school in Medowie,” she said.
“The Catholic diocese has done exactly what the state government should be doing.”
Ms Washington said the peninsula was home to Tomaree High, Irrawang High and Hunter River High but there was still a “desperate need” for a Medowie school.
“It does impact on us as a community,” she said.
“We lose our teenagers from very early to late in the day. Once they become teenagers we rarely see them.
“They lose their peer groups because they’re all going in different directions. It has a significant impact on our strength as a community and our children’s mental health.”