New site to bring new life to local school

New site to bring new life to local school
Jack Hayes

For years, students, staff and parents at Simonds Catholic College (SCC) have ferried between its Fitzroy North and West Melbourne campuses.

The school’s recent $9.5 million acquisition of 52-58 Chetwynd St, West Melbourne, will see an end to over a decade of logistical challenges with the amalgamation of both campuses in one inner-city location.

According to SCC principal, Peter Riordan, it had long been his vision to bring the two campuses together and plans for a new vertical school would see it become reality, but after a chance meeting with the former tenants of the acquired site, the school put those plans on ice to pursue an “invaluable” chance to increase its footprint.

“Four or five years ago, the same property was on the market, but we were outbid,” Mr Riordan said. “Since then, it has been our vision to bring the two campuses together and we were able to work with architects on plans in building a vertical school in the vicinity of $14 million.”

“We walked around the corner and spoke to one of the directors to ask if they were interested in leasing out the building for 12 to 18 months to house the boys while the building was to be built. Three minutes later we had a call from a real estate agent.”

Mr Riordan, who has had a long career in Melbourne’s Catholic education system, said that although it was an incredibly tough decision to abandon plans for the vertical renovations, having the extra land and space was in the best long-term interests of the school, staff and students.

The new building, which will be used as a specialised Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) centre, adjoins the rear of the existing campus, allowing the school to create an internal connection between the two sites.

With 407 students across the two campuses, SCC expects its cohort to increase over the next 10 years.

“This acquisition has been a real vote of confidence from head office (Melbourne Archdioceses Catholic Schools) that they support what we are doing. We are one of only a few truly inner-city schools, we are experts in educating boys, we are wholly multicultural and multifaith in everything we do, and take students from all over Melbourne,” Mr Riordan said.

“We know how to teach boys, and to get the best out of them. Our facilities now, and into the future, will reflect that.”

According to SCC business manager, Halyer Rayner, the low-fee Catholic school continued to punch well above its weight when it came to VCE results.

“We support our students with everything they need. It is incredibly satisfying to see the progress and achievements of our students from year seven through to their graduation,” Mr Rayner said.

“The Herald Sun did a results comparison last year which saw us match some of the best performing schools in the state, in terms of value for money.”

“The bigger picture for us will be the stage two development of the original plans, for which we already have Heritage Victoria approval and hope to soon have town planning approval. The plans involve demolishing existing buildings on site to make way for an underground car park and gymnasium, extra classrooms, all the while keeping the new building within the height restrictions.”

SCC will receive the keys to 52-58 Chetwynd St at the beginning of March, with renovations expected to be complete at the end of 2022.

Enrolments for all year levels are now open •

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