Carmen's story

by Carmen Lahiff-jenkins
I’ve been a Coburg resident for 12 years. The North Coburg area was home for 10 of those. We turned our front yard into a vegie garden and slowly the neighbors become involved in our labor of love, we trained them as chook wranglers and dog-catchers as our menagerie spilled over our fence; the children called the old man across the road Pa and we attended the funeral of his wife with heavy hearts. The local children would show up on our doorstep most evenings for bike advice and my partner was the coach at a local football club. Every Christmas Eve we organized a visit from Santa, meeting at the park on Claremont street, a few years in a row with Preston Fire-brigade on board, delivering Santa in style.

As our eldest son entered late primary it occurred to us; there was no high school in Coburg.

Investigating our options it became clear that on the North side of Bell Street we wouldn’t have access to a high school of choice and the options were distinctly disappointing. So we moved to the other side of Bell Street and left the relationship with our community behind. But it doesn’t end there. Now two years into our new address and Strathmore, Thornbury and Northcote are closing their doors, to boys especially. The options are still rather limited. Many of the Coburg kids who have schooled together cannot go to High school together, and my son makes lists trying to choose which friends he can let go and with which he want to stay. I have started training him for long travel alone as unless we move again he will have to travel across suburbs for schooling. This will incur extra expenses for our family as well as limiting his physical exercise, as he now travels by scooter or bike to school.
Earlier this year we did the high school open day circuit, and at each school they would ask ‘where do you live?’ and when we answered ‘Coburg’ they would look doubtful and say ‘well, try anyway’.

My children attend a primary school that are already predicting 80 preps in 2012, this year there were 90 preps; in only six short years 90 grade sixes will be looking for a high school in this area. Where are they going to go?

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