Alphington Grammar School seeks to resolve dispute with Yarra Council ‘peacefully’

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By Argyro Vourdoumpa and Andriana Simos

Support is growing for Alphington Grammar School as parents and the school community continue to fight Yarra City Council’s demand to permanently open its front gates to the public.

The Council unanimously voted last year to reopen Old Heidelberg Road, a dead-end street that runs through the grounds of the school, in order to provide public access to Darebin Creek.

In response, school staff, parents and students held a rally on May 24 in defiance of the Council’s gate removal demand. Hours later, trucks arrived at Alphington Grammar to forcibly remove the pedestrian gate from school grounds.

In a statement at the time, the Yarra City Council said they removed the gate as it “was installed by the school illegally and without permission.”

Since then, the school community have held a number of meetings this week to discuss next steps.

Parents from Alphington Grammar attended a monthly meeting held by the Council on Tuesday night and voiced their concerns and questions to the Councillors who were present.

Parents at the Tuesday night meeting.

Later in the week on Thursday night, parents and staff members held another meeting with the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) and its President Bill Papastergiadis OAM, and members of the School Council including the Chair of Council, Associate Professor Marinis Pirpiris.

School Principal Dr Vivianne Nikou presented photos of the area to those in attendance and showed what the redundant road looks like after just two days of rain in an attempt to point out the problematic functionality of the road.

During the meeting, the GOCM confirmed its commitment to the Greek community, School Council and the school to keep working through the issues that are dividing the community.

Photos presented by Dr Nikou at Thursday night’s meeting.

“There were lots of questions and parents were fully supportive of the actions so far,” Dr Nikou told The Greek Herald. “We will continue to meet with the relevant ministers and authorities to resolve the situation peacefully.”

For now, the school has installed extra CCTV cameras trained on the school’s main entrance over fears strangers could roam school grounds unchecked.

Parent, Sarah Baker, told The Greek Herald the school has ‘gone into a lockdown’ with young children no longer even able to play in the playground.

School community rallies against the Council’s demands.

“I don’t want the children to be confined to the basketball court area because that’s simply not fair on the children who are used to running around and enjoying the area and the time with their friends,” Ms Baker said.

“I felt sick to the stomach on the first day before that had been put into place but now I feel a lot better knowing that the school is taking all the relevant and appropriate steps that nothing happens to the children… But again, that’s not a long term solution.”

Chief Executive of Independent Schools Victoria (ISV), Michelle Green, said that while ISV is not involved in the dispute between Alphington Grammar and the local council, “we share the school community’s concerns about the safety and privacy of students.”

“We hope that this issue can be resolved in a way that ensures student safety is protected,” Ms Green added.

A petition launched by the school has already gathered more than 2,800 signatures and the community is calling on more people to sign and support their cause.

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