A new inner-city primary school is desperately needed to cater for families who will move into apartments under construction, says Newcastle East Public school council president Lisa Piefke.
Newcastle East families have been calling for several years for the government to build another school in the inner city, as their land-locked school struggles to accommodate students, uses the top of Hunter Water's reservoir for play and hosts sport off-site.
Ms Piefke said families had welcomed the school's new building, comprising four classrooms and a shared learning space.
But the school is still over its enrolment cap and has two demountables.
"The way the footprint is at the school and the size of the campus, it's always going to limit the number of students it can have," Ms Piefke said.
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The government updated its enrolment policy last July to include centrally-set enrolment caps based on each school's number of permanent buildings, as a consistent way to manage enrolments from outside local zones.
Demountables don't count towards the cap. Principals set a buffer of places within the cap to accommodate local students enrolling throughout the year.
Schools won't consider new non-local enrolments if they can't accommodate them below their buffer - and won't be given any additional accommodation to cater for increased numbers resulting from non-local enrolments.
Department of Education data shows Newcastle East's enrolment cap is 254. It currently has 267 students, including 64 out of area enrolments.
Ms Piefke said this number was decreasing each year, mostly older students and included some families who had moved out of the area after enrolling.
She said she was more concerned about local enrolments.
"When you look at the developments occurring in that precinct they're enormous, so it's only going to put more pressure on the school and they can't turn [local] children away, so where they're going to put them is a difficult decision," she said.
"It's a peninsula and that's the school these kids have to go to at this stage, there isn't another one for them to attend.
"If they shrink the zone of Newcastle East it will be the sort of school that sits almost outside its own zone."
She said it was incorrect to assume families weren't buying apartments.
"I think apartments really are the only choice for some people, particularly young people with children - they can't afford to buy a house, it's out of their reach," she said.
"I think there are already a lot of parents who are at Newcastle East who do live in apartments."
Ms Piefke said families had heard "nothing" about the Newcastle Education Precinct since 2018 - and wanted details.
"It's gone very quiet and we haven't heard anything about it at all," she said.
"It would be great if it could be back on the agenda. It's a great location, it's central.
"It would make for a good campus, particularly with the high school and primary school next to each other, the integration of those two education facilities would be a fantastic idea."
She said families of years five and six students planning on attending Newcastle High would be interested in how plans for the site would impact them, particularly as they have just endured construction at their primary school.
"If the kids are taken into consideration and it's done sympathetically for them that would be great."
She said if the government moved enrolment zone boundaries, families would want to be consulted and those currently in the Newcastle East zone to still have the option to enrol at the school.
The closest primary school to the precinct, Hamilton South Public, has a cap of 323. It has 423 students including 116 from out of area.
A department spokesperson said there are about 10,000 primary and 7000 secondary students at schools in the Newcastle Local Government Area.
"By 2036 primary student numbers in the LGA are projected to grow by about nine percent, and secondary numbers by about 10 percent - lower than the state average," the spokeperson said.
"Our projections are based on data supplied by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, informed by Census, dwelling and population data.
"This will inform the Newcastle Education Precinct which is currently in planning." Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the government had forgotten about Newcastle.
"We have 14 demountable classrooms in use at inner-city schools and nine schools over their enrolment caps... right now we have a golden opportunity to go on a post-COVID infrastructure blitz."
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