‘Bureaucrats’ cost blowout’ threatens Chilwell PS project

Chilwell Primary School.

By Luke Voogt

A $3.1m budget blowout has threatened a “vital” two-storey redevelopment at Chilwell Primary School, according to its council president Phil Joyce.

Mr Joyce accused “Melbourne-based bureaucrats” of revising plans to demolish and replace an aging wing to a refurbishment the existing building.

Victorian Schools Building Authority (VSBA) had altered the original plans after costs for a two-storey development blew out from $2.4m to $5.5m over a year, Mr Joyce said.

“It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to have built up the expectations of our parents, teachers and kids.“

Replacing the aging and “asbestos-riddled” wing was vital as Chilwell Primary School neared its maximum enrolment of 400 to 425, Mr Joyce said.

“We will reach 400 within the next year or two,” he said.

A few of school’s 393 students had sustained injuries due to the lack of outdoor space, including Mr Joyce’s daughter, he said.

State Government allocated $2.4m its 2017-18 budget for the school and in July 2017 appointed a Melbourne building company to design a new building.

The Indy has seen the company’s schematics detailing plans to demolish the existing building and build a two-storey wing.

In October the school’s principal Gavan Welsh and Mr Joyce signed off on a project report for a double-storey building, which the Indy also has seen.

The document outlines a demolition and two story building, with a total cost of $2,409,967.

In December the school received notification from VSBA and government the project would go 10 per cent over funding, Mr Joyce said.

In March, 2018, VSBA supplied new costings for a double storey redevelopment of $3,683,516 and suggested a refurbishment as an option, he said.

“This was the first time we heard anything about a refurbishment,” he said.

Building cost estimates continued to rise until VSBA advised the school in July the two storey building would cost $5,513,907.

VSBA failed to adequately advise Chilwell Primary School’s council why the costs had risen, Mr Joyce said.

“There is no consultation and no consideration from the people who learn and work at the school every day,” Mr Joyce said.

The July cost estimate, which the Indy has seen, offers only a very basic breakdown of costs.

The school has also obtained a quote from a local building company to build a two storey building within the original budget, which the Indy has seen.

A Department of Education spokesperson said VSBA explored a two-storey building but an assessment of the costs showed it could not be delivered within the available budget.

“As a result, it was determined the project objectives could be met through a complete refurbishment of the learning community building.”