The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Laharum school in limbo


The buildings and grounds of Laharum Primary School are eerily quiet.

The hum and excitement of children attending the school, on the fringe of the Grampians, south of Horsham, is gone as the school enters its second year without enrolments.

‘De-staffed’ at the recommenda­tion of the school’s council last year, the school is not officially closed but sits in a period of limbo while the State Government conducts its various considerat­ions for the future of the site.

Three students – a foundation student and two boys in year six – were enrolled at the school in 2022 – the same year it celebrated 135 years of education.

Principal Jane Mclean’s involvemen­t with the school reached 10 years last year.

She and other staff undertook alternativ­e duties from the end of term three as they supported schools across the south-west region.

Ms Mclean said the school council, staff and community had worked hard for many years to attract new students – including newspaper and social media advertisin­g, open days and banners strategica­lly located on major roads leading to the school.

She said losing the community’s kindergart­en service in 2017 marked a challengin­g time of no new enrolments until 2022, when the foundation student joined the two year-six students at the school. There were 22 students enrolled in 2018.

“We went around and around in circles, trying to think how we could increase enrolments – and we kept coming back to having the kinder to

feed into the school. Once children have gone to kinder elsewhere and made little friends, they weren’t going to come back to Laharum,” she said.

“Little schools are like a family and it’s also such a loss for the community – something that’s been around for such a long time and with such a long history.

“Once a school leaves, it’s another thing gone from a little community.

“It’s a beautiful school, a beautiful location, beautiful kids and in a very close-knit community.”

Ms Mclean said her role towards the end of last year involved travelling and supporting small schools.

She will be placed at Rupanyup Primary School from this month until a substantiv­e principal is appointed.

“It’s a telling tale, right across the board, that numbers are declining and people are just not living in those areas, or they’re an ageing population,” she said.

The Laharum school is undergoing an upgrade as it serves as a ‘shelter in place’ refuge for emergencie­s, with funding worth almost $20,000 announced in June.

A Department of Education spokespers­on said government schools and their local communitie­s regularly assessed a school’s ability to meet needs and deliver a comprehens­ive educationa­l

program as part of their review and strategic planning processes.

The spokespers­on said the department carefully considered a number of factors – including projected population and student growth – to determine whether a school site should be retained for future education needs, before it was declared ‘surplus’.

They said the department would continue to maintain the buildings and grounds at Laharum until a decision was made on the school’s future.

“We work closely with small schools to make sure they can meet the needs of their communitie­s and deliver a comprehens­ive education for local students,” the spokespers­on said.

West Wimmera Shire Council will apply for funding to redevelop Edenhope Lions Park to include play equipment for all abilities and ages, an extended skate park, amenities and family gathering spaces.

The council will apply for $500,000 from the Federal Government’s ‘Growing Regions Fund’ for the $1-million project, which is part of the Edenhope Playspace Strategy. The council would contribute the remaining $500,000 to complete the project.

Mayor Tim Meyer said the redevelopm­ent would create a significan­t boost for residents and visitors.

“Last year we did extensive community consultati­on about all the playground­s in Edenhope,” he said.

“We know the Edenhope Lions Park is the most used and most valued playspace in the town, but we all know it is currently looking old and tired.

“We want to create a space that will meet the current and future needs of the community.”

If the funding applicatio­n is successful, the council hopes to complete the project by December 2025.

 ?? ?? UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Former parents, staff and students of Laharum Primary School, from left, Jenny Uebergang, Wendy Mcinnes, Jane Mclean, Jade Adams, Rachel Harris and Jenny Mcinnes at the school.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Former parents, staff and students of Laharum Primary School, from left, Jenny Uebergang, Wendy Mcinnes, Jane Mclean, Jade Adams, Rachel Harris and Jenny Mcinnes at the school. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

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