• Tony Bosworth

Major building works at Richmond High School for 9 months just as pupils arrive back in class

Richmond High School students – who are all now back in their classes after lockdown ended - won’t just be learning the three Rs, they’re also set to learn all about truck movements, diggers, dust and noise.

The whole school cohort has been back for just a week and today – Monday – major building work begins at the school for nine months, starting at 7am and potentially going on to 6pm five days a week and even continuing through the weekend.

What the Department of Education calls “the upgrade” is extensive and is aimed mostly as setting up an Agriculture STEM (Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics) selective stream and an Agriculture STEM speciality stream at the school.

In line with that, the project will deliver a new STEM building with a focus on agricultural education, as well as refurbishment works in Building 1, Building 6 and Building 7, along with some minor works in other school buildings.

The major construction is expected to take up to nine months, with work in existing buildings to take place during the summer holiday period before students return in 2022.

Site fencing and sheds will be put up, there will be construction of in-ground services (including water and power) and demolition within Building 6, as well as extensive earthworks.

Construction has been scheduled around the HSC examination period, with ‘no work’ or ‘minimal noise’ construction occurring on nominated days, the Department of Education has told us.

While the Department won’t be drawn on the cost of the building work – they tell us it’s ‘commercial in confidence’, even though it’s taxpayer money - it is an extensive building operation.

“The kids have just gone back to school and today I get an advisory saying they're starting major construction work from Monday, to go on 7 days a week, 7am to 6pm,” parent Venecia Wilson told the Post.

“They've got the classroom windows open, doing some outdoor learning and the kids all divvied up into different playground areas for social distancing during breaks.

“Now they have to dodge mud carts, and have plant equipment noise and dust everywhere.”

Department of Education's diagram of work - lilac is major reno, and pink the new build

The timing certainly does seem somewhat unfortunate, given in common with all other Greater Sydney schools most pupils have been home-schooled for months due to COVID lockdown. So why now, when all pupils are once again settling into classroom routine?

“Prior to commencement, design and planning documentation needed to be prepared for consideration, including a Review of Environmental Factors,” a Department of Education spokesperson told us.

“This is an important part of planning for the project to ensure we appropriately consider the impacts to deliver the upgrade. This and the tender process, which takes several months, is now complete allowing site establishment and construction to start on Monday 1 November.

“Construction will be operating in accordance with the NSW Health Orders, implementing COVID Safe Plans and working with the school to contain the construction zones.”

“The staging of the works have been developed in consultation with the Richmond High School leadership team with a strong emphasis on the safety of school faculty and students,” said the spokesperson.

“The construction works will be completely isolated from the students, with internal walls and hoardings installed to mitigate noise and dust, which will be managed in accordance with the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Construction builder - archive picture

“Noise will be kept to a minimum as best as possible during the construction, and dust as a result of demolition and excavation, will be hosed as required.

“Trucks making deliveries to the site will have their loads covered. The site will undergo air monitoring during inground works and noise and dust will be appropriately managed throughout construction in accordance with the project’s consent conditions.

“The construction methodology and work zones have been developed to ensure there is minimal impact on the school, including any school functions that may be held during this time.

“There will be regular consultation with the school to discuss any functions that may operate, and measures will be put in place to ensure construction impacts are minimised. The hours of construction are in accordance with legislation,” the spokesperson said.

That legislation has been changed recently to allow for longer construction hours of 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 7am to 5pm Saturday and even 9am to 5pm on Sundays.

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