'Urgent' need for another public secondary school in Perth's western suburbs, Education Minister says
Back in 1999 - 2000, the state government of Western Australia, led by Richard Court (Liberal) closed three public high schools in Perth's Western Suburbs, citing lack of enrolments and lack of demand for the facilities. In 1999, Scarborough Senior High School closed down, and in 2000 Swanbourne Senior High School and Hollywood Senior High School (in Nedlands) were closed down and their student bodies merged into Shenton College. The land they stood on was sold off to developers, who later sold it on at a profit as premium housing in the prestigious Western suburbs.
The education minister at the time was one Colin Barnett.
Now, eleven years later, there's apparently urgent need for at least one more state high school in Perth's western suburbs, because the two state-run facilities which remain, Churchlands Senior High School (in Churchlands) and Shenton College (near Subiaco) are bulging at the seams and running out of facilities for students. There's going to be a need for another 1,417 spaces by 2020. The current (Liberal) state government, under Premier Colin Barnett, appears somewhat surprised by this.
Kids grow up, who knew?
Unfortunately, the cost of land in the Western suburbs is sky-high (which is why all those high schools were closed in the first place - where else was the government going to find prime real estate for the developers to sell off?). The government is looking at space in City Beach (and probably wincing, shuddering and bleeding when they consider the cost, given land prices in the area), but they're constrained by the fact that at the end of the mining boom, the coffers are suddenly empty. All the money's been spent. Including, one must add, all the money they earned from selling off those school sites in the first place.
See, the thing about schools is this: demand for school places in a particular region is cyclical. You'll get times when you have a high population of students, because your suburbs are full of young families settling in with their kids, and needing things like primary and secondary schools, sporting grounds and so on. That'll last for maybe a couple of decades, and then there'll be a bit of a gap, where the demand dries up a bit, because all those kids you put through the school system have grown up and are getting started on their own lives, and moving away from their parents' homes. But if you hang about for a bit (maybe about a decade or two), you'll find that once again, you're going to need those school facilities, because the original parents will be selling up and downsizing, selling their family houses to young families who want to buy in the area because of things like access to schools! Bingo! You have a new generation coming up who want things like schooling.
A school building is a long-term investment, something you build for three or four generations, not just one. They're specialist assets to the region, which attract people to suburbs, rather than simply being drains on the public purse. Even if the demand for the school is low at present, it will increase in ten to twenty years. Even if the need for the school is declining this decade, in another ten to twenty years, it'll be back on the rise again.
This is why you don't sell off schools. It costs you far more in the long run than you'll ever make in the short term.