The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have provided new hope to the decade-long push by State MP Kate Washington for a state high school at Medowie.
With the economy in recession due to widespread COVID-19 lockdowns, the Labor Party has called on the government to fulfill a 2011 election promise and build the school as a necessary factor in stimulating the economy and creating jobs in Port Stephens.
But the government has set its priorities elsewhere.
Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack would not comment on the Medowie High proposition, stating only that the government was committed to providing school infrastructure for a growing student population, which includes planning to cater for growth in the Medowie area.
"The government has started early planning for upgrades to Irrawang and Hunter River high schools, including early design works and business case preparation," Ms Cusack stated.
In contrast Ms Washington, flanked by party leader Jodi McKay during a visit to the area on June 25, said that the need for a high school on vacant education department land in Ferodale Road [earmarked since 1983] had never been greater.
"The primary schools in Medowie are over capacity, the high schools in Raymond Terrace are at capacity, there is a new catholic school and five new housing developments under construction yet we continue to have around 1000 students spending hours of their day travelling outside the district on buses," Ms Washington said.
"We will even have a McDonald's in Medowie before we get a high school."
Parents of school-age children in Medowie say the impacts of long travel times on family life, social and sporting activities are being felt.
Mother of three Marnie Coates said that she was dreading the day her eldest child would be starting high school.
"The children love their sport, including dancing and horse riding, but the extra travel time means they will struggle to keep that up," she said. "It seems ridiculous we have to send out children away for their education when we have vacant land right here."
In launching its new campaign 'Building Schools Creates Jobs' to kick-start construction across the state, Ms McKay said the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic had provided the perfect opportunity to create jobs in construction.
"A new high school means keeping tradies employed and getting kids into classrooms closer to home. Students should not have to travel as far as Newcastle to attend school. The government must deliver and provide much-needed economic stimulus."