The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Vivi­enne Duck

JAMES Merlino is stand­ing fast on his re­fusal to com­mit to a date to visit the di­lap­i­dated Echuca Spe­cial­ist School.

It has been 66 days since the school was shunned in the Vic­to­rian bud­get and the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter can still not com­mit to vis­it­ing the school and its dis­ap­pointed stu­dents. But he in­sists it will be ‘‘soon’’. “We know more work needs to be done at Echuca Spe­cial­ist School and we will fin­ish what we started,’’ Mr Merlino said.

“Ur­gent sew­er­age works are al­most com­plete and I look for­ward to vis­it­ing the school soon.’’

A typ­i­cal po­lit­i­cal war of words is now play­ing out over fund­ing the school af­ter the Coali­tion promised to kick in $11 million to get Echuca Spe­cial­ist School to Twin Rivers School.

Mem­ber for Murray Plains Peter Walsh and Shadow Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Tim Smith an­nounced the fund­ing last week but Mr Merlino said they are all talk.

“The Coali­tion are all talk when it comes to school fund­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘What we know is that when they were in gov­ern­ment they ripped $1 bil­lion from our schools and they will cut fund­ing again if they get the chance.’’

Mr Smith called the state of the school “sim­ply un­ac­cept­able” on his re­cent visit and said the stu­dents and their teach­ers de­served bet­ter.

Mr Merlino’s of­fice told the Riv the Vic­to­rian School Building Au­thor­ity is work­ing closely with Echuca Spe- cial­ist School and with the own­ers of the prop­erty to rec­tify the sew­er­age is­sues.

The works were meant to be op­er­a­tional by close of busi­ness to­day.

‘‘There will be a site pres­ence into early next week for site clean-up, but the sys­tem will be op­er­a­tional,’’ Mr Merlino’s of­fice said.

‘‘We will con­tinue to work with schools, in­clud­ing Echuca Spe­cial­ist School, on their in­fra­struc­ture needs and will con­sider fu­ture fund­ing as part of the usual bud­get pro­cesses.’’

When the Riv asked Mr Merlino’s of­fice whether the gov­ern­ment was plan­ning to re­verse its de­ci­sion to not fund the school, it did not re­ceive a di­rect an­swer.

The school’s quiet space was due to be com­pleted to­day thanks to Rock Solid Gar­den­ing Sup­plies with stu­dents due back af­ter the school hol­i­days on Mon­day.

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