Hope for Emerald distance ed accommodation breakthrough

Capricornia distance ed P&C meets with Education Department

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One of the accommodation options at the Emerald campus of the Capricornia School of Distance Education that is slated for an upgrade.

One of the accommodation options at the Emerald campus of the Capricornia School of Distance Education that is slated for an upgrade.

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Capricornia School of Distance Education P&C executive members hope that a meeting last week with Education Queensland departmental representatives is a breakthrough in their fight to regain access to accommodation facilities on the Emerald campus.

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Capricornia School of Distance Education P&C executive members hope that a meeting last week with Education Queensland departmental representatives is a breakthrough in their fight to regain access to accommodation facilities on the Emerald campus.

According to P&C vice president and chairwoman of the Outstation committee, Shontae Moran, the meeting at the Emerald campus gave them an opportunity to provide a deeper understanding of how they used the buildings and what they needed.

On-campus accommodation built with funds raised by the school P&C has been declared off-limits to families by the Education Department, citing fire safety and workplace health and safety concerns, sparking a huge outcry from rural families faced with stiff bills for alternative options.

Ms Moran said they had spoken last week with Peter Gockel, Education Queensland's principal project officer, portfolio delivery, infrastructure services branch, and Joshua Ruiz, project manager with the Lambert and Rehbein engineering solutions firm.

Capricornia SDE principal Amanda Rynne was also in attendance.

"Mr Ruiz brought a team of engineers and an architect to gather information and details," Ms Moran said.

"They didn't have answers to our list of questions but they wanted a deeper understanding of how we used the buildings.

"We made it clear that we regard them as ancillary camping, not boarding houses."

She said the mood to upgrade the facilities to make them compliant for the purposes that families wanted was positive.

"The principal promise is that it's preserved for camping when we need it."

Alongside that was a proposal for a joint development agreement or a similar arrangement that would allow the P&C to manage the buildings while they're using them, that Ms Moran said Mr Gockel had agreed to take back to Education Minister Grace Grace.

Ms Moran said the aim of this was to obtain a guarantee that families wouldn't be shut out again 10 years down the track, and have to go through the same angst.

"It would allow us to negotiate around who pays for what, and could take pressure off the school budget - it's a solid assurance that everyone knows where they stand."

The P&C had been advised that three different concepts would be drawn up, each of which would make the buildings compliant.

Once a design had been agreed upon, it would go out to tender to gauge the cost, Ms Moran said, adding that the department had pledged to cover the costs of upgrades.

"We are keen to have the joint development arrangement conversation in parallel so that if there's an opportunity or a need to fundraise, we can do that knowing we'll be able to use the Outstation," Ms Moran said.

Education Minister Grace Grace was contacted for comment but hadn't been able to respond in time for publication.

RELATED: Government sleeps on Distance Ed accommodation action

Ms Moran said the P&C was optimistic following the meeting but as always, would wait for the actions to follow.

"Hopefully the department can now see the uniqueness of these facilities to Schools of Distance Education and will be working to restore them," she said.

"We don't want anything that will reduce the capacity of our buildings, which is a combined total of 58 people.

"It's good to be getting movement and hopefully it's in the right direction."

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The story Hope for Emerald distance ed accommodation breakthrough first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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