Scopus move ‘should be for everyone’

Mount Scopus College.

LEADERS of several Jewish schools have called for more scrutiny on the land-swap proposal, spearheaded by a federal Labor government if elected, to move Mount Scopus College to Caulfield.

It was announced last month that a four-way deal between the federal government, state government, Deakin University and Mount Scopus could see the school’s Burwood site sold and a new premises built on the current site of the Caulfield Hospital.

“Whilst the proposal that has been announced regarding the release of the Caulfield Hospital site is very exciting, this must be a broad communal project,” the principals and presidents of Bialik College, King David School, Sholem Aleichem College and Leibler Yavneh College said in a joint statement.

Mount Scopus principal Rabbi James Kennard (left) with ALP candidate Josh Burns at Caulfield Hospital. Photo: Simon Kosmer

The group, which are due to meet with Labor this week, said they represent a substantial majority of Jewish school students in Victoria.

They are set to demand that the $5 million feasibility study, which will be paid for by the federal government if Labor wins the election, consider the interest of the entire Jewish community, not just Mount Scopus.

“It is clear that the project, should it proceed, will call for significant taxpayer and private funding.

“It is our view that in addition to properly considering alternatives that will result in greater community benefit, any project of this scale must have as a guiding objective improving the affordability of Jewish education for families of all Jewish day schools, and preserve quality and choice for our families.”

As well as co-signing the letter, Bialik principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner went one step further.

“It would also be a useful communal conversation as to whether spending $100 million on moving an already-successful school is the best use of funds,” Stowe-Lindner said.

“Rather than having the geographical, financial or numerical dominance of any one school, I know from my experience in the UK that Jewish communities thrive when they have a choice of excellent schools.”

Labor’s candidate for Macnamara Josh Burns, who is due to meet with the schools this week, said that he looks forward to an open dialogue.

“Labor has announced an exciting feasibility study into the redevelopment of the Caulfield Hospital,” Burns said.

“Of course there will be wide consultation with the community and affected stakeholders, including other schools.”

In a statement, Kooyong MP Josh Frydenberg, Senator James Paterson, Goldstein MP Tim Wilson, Liberal candidate for Macnamara Kate Ashmor and Liberal candidate for Higgins Katie Allen said, “The redevelopment of Caulfield Hospital, potentially freeing up land for community use, is a once in a generation opportunity that deserves careful consideration and broad consultation, not a rushed announcement on the eve of an election.

“If re-elected, the Morrison government will seek clarity from the Victorian government about its plans for the site, and conduct a genuinely open consultation process with all stakeholders including Mount Scopus, other Jewish schools, Glen Eira Council, Maccabi Victoria, local residents, hospital staff, and the wider community.”

JOSHUA LEVI