School abandoned

Dooralong Public School has been abandoned to decline into a derelict state since it was closed in 2011, and there are no clear plans for its future.

Buildings have fallen into disrepair and walls have been heavily graffitied, rotting timber decking has been cordoned off, the grounds are wildly overgrown with weeds and rampant vegetation.

“The Department is aware of the condition of these grounds and will be undertaking works to manage the area,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Education.

“Mowing and securing any damaged buildings is expected to begin over the next few weeks.”

The school closed in 2011 due to lack of enrolments and there hasn’t been any decision about the future use of the site which houses classrooms, covered outdoor learning areas, play equipment, water tanks, foundations, pathways, amenities buildings and a teacher’s residence/library.

“The school is on the Wyong Local Environment Plan as having local heritage significance, which would impact any future proposed changes to the existing heritage buildings,” said a Department spokesperson.

“Once a decision on the future use of the site is made, which is anticipated to be by the end of 2021, the site will undergo further maintenance work.”

Over the years since the school was closed, numerous community organisations have approached the Department to use the buildings but all have been rejected or fallen through for one reason or another.

In 2018, Central Coast Council quashed a Department proposal to rezone the school site to sell it for future “village” subdivision because it would diminish the local prominence and heritage value of the school buildings.

A Trustee of Dooralong Hall for the past 20 years, Carolyn McNamee, said that at various stages since the school closed she had contacted Wyong MP, David Harris, and the Department of Education to try and get something done to preserve the school.

“I got fobbed off quite a bit by the Department,” she said.

Harris said he’s made numerous representations to the Department on behalf of the community but mostly they had fallen on deaf ears.

“I get very saddened every time I go past there, and I know there are many people in the community who are disappointed,” McNamee said.

“It was suggested several years ago that the Hall Trust take over the school, and there’s a lot involved in that, and after discussion among the members, we decided that we already had enough on our plate with the hall and the reserve, which is quite a big undertaking for volunteers to look after.

“Although, if there was an action group or a community group to take on care of the school, we would fully support them.

“For too long, the Department has just put it on the backburner and I really don’t think they have any plan at all for the future of the school,” McNamee said.

Dooralong Public School opened on August 19, 1903, with 15 pupils and enrolments steadily grew with a tradition of high academic and sporting results.

In 1908, Samuel McKimm was appointed Teacher-in-Charge and remained there until he retired in 1950.

A former Principal of the school, Paul Maish, who still lives in Dooralong, lived in the teacher’s house,

He was a member of the Centenary Committee and collated and edited the Dooralong Public School Centenary Book which is available at local libraries and even graces the annals of the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

He said there was always a great sense of community at the school, with parents playing a significant hands-on role, which all contributed to the real spirit of the school.

Following on from Maish as Principal was Wyong MP, David Harris, who taught and lived at the school for seven years.

Former students of the school include former Wyong Shire President Wilfred Barrett, James Hoskins who went on to become principal of James Ruse High School and champion jockey, Peter Losh.

Maish said that aside from the Hall, the school is the only thing that really marks Dooralong.

“It’s sad to just let it go like that,” Maish said.

Sue Murray