Belvoir Special School Life Skills House remains at a standstill

PLAN STALLED: Belvoir Special School student Felicity Tomkins, 16, and Rotary Club of Belvoir-Wodonga's Trevor Pearce are frustrated by the delays. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

PLAN STALLED: Belvoir Special School student Felicity Tomkins, 16, and Rotary Club of Belvoir-Wodonga's Trevor Pearce are frustrated by the delays. Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

A HOUSE designed to give special needs students in Wodonga skills for independent living has stalled as the state government digs in its heels.

The Life Skills House is a joint venture between Belvoir Special School and the Rotary Clubs of Belvoir-Wodonga, Wodonga Central, Wodonga West and Albury-Wodonga Sunrise at no cost to the government.

A Victorian Department of Education and Training spokeswoman said on Wednesday the Department would work with the school and Rotary Clubs to support the project.

“Project contract conditions have been provided, and the Department is waiting on written approval from the builder on one last outstanding condition before a contract is prepared and signed to enable the progress of this important project,” she said.

“While it’s understandable the school community is keen to get this project under way, we need to ensure proper requirements are met when any construction project is undertaken on one of our schools.”

Rotary Club of Belvoir-Wodonga president Trevor Pearce said while they had verbal approval for the project from the Education Department more than 12 months ago, it had stalled under Victorian School Building Authority red tape.

“The VSBA posted a number of demands on our builder and we have accepted all of them except one,” he said.

“They are demanding a bank guarantee on the building; we don’t think that’s acceptable as our builder is a volunteer and the bank guarantee would come at a cost to us.”

The Rotary clubs have pledges of about $256,000 for materials and labour from Border businesses and have raised $150,000 in cash. 

Belvoir Special School council president Rhonda Strauss said it was outrageous the Life Skills House was at a standstill.

“This would mean so much to our kids, it’s invaluable; we can’t put a value on what the kids would learn,” she said.

“They need to learn day to day living skills; you can only play out so much in a classroom, in a house they can learn washing and practical living skills.”

School parent Naomi McDermott said the house would extend the school’s teaching capabilities.

“This house is for the kids but it’s also for the whole community because it will increase the kids’ independence and self-esteem,” she said.

Rotary Club of Wodonga Central member Clive Faul, an assistant district governor, said the project came from speaking to school parents.

“It would appear to be such a simple process,” he said.

“But they’ve (Department) come back and said it doesn’t fit the criteria, well, change the criteria!”

​The Life Skills House would be built on the grounds of Belvoir Special School to allow more than 200 students, aged 4 to 18, to learn independent living skills such as cooking and cleaning in a home environment.

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