A slightly more emotional post from me this week. My old school, Boronia Heights, has been quite badly vandalised since closing at the end of the school year on 2014. I’d like to talk about how and why this happened, although as I have a personal investment in this, it’s likely to sound more jaded than some other posts! Here are some pictures:
This first came to my attention via the Abandoned Melbourne page on Facebook. This was shared by my old school friends a number of times. After seeing a close school friend who had gone to the school and was shocked about how bad the damage was, I decided to go and have a look for myself. I partly wanted to see the school as a trip down memory lane, but I also thought the damage couldn’t be that bad. I was very wrong on both counts! I couldn’t enjoy any trips down memory lane as the damage was so bad, it overrided any thoughts about my time at school, pleasant or otherwise.
As I entered the school from the back entrance, I noticed how overgrown the paths were. This is problematic from a crime prevention perspective (see my earlier posts about CPTED) as it introduces the place as somewhere that crime naturally occurs. I didn’t feel safe walking through the school from the outset.
As I continued up the path, I noticed almost all the windows had been smashed. Glass was everywhere. All the doors were able to be opened. The smell of fresh spray paint was everywhere, as well as burning. My school was a former trade school, and almost a third of the school was dedicated to trades, home economics or science. It appears very limited clean up was done – the electronics room had all the bits we had to use to make a switchboard smashed all over the floor. There was still a ceramics pottery kiln, books in the library, and all sorts of documentation from when the school was operating.
Often what occurs with property crime and damage, is that once damage starts, without intervention it continues rapidly. That appears to be what has happened here. In the first instance it was people exploring large abandoned grounds, then people have started entering the building, taking things, and tagging the walls with graffiti. This wouldn’t have happened all at once – over a few weeks to months things would have escalated quickly. The attention given to the grounds by social media also would have impacted on the school being visited more, more things taken and more damage occurring. I saw no less than 4 other groups of people there when I went, poking through the rubbish that is now the school.
What can be done to prevent this from occurring in the future?
1. Think like a business, and liquidate all possible assets as soon as the school is closed. All goods that could have been used elsewhere should have been moved, with all remaining items auctioned on Facebook, eBay or gumtree etc. Ex-students would have liked souvenirs I’m sure, or been willing to help move items to people who need them to avoid waste.
2. Make plans, and follow them. There were no plans for the school grounds confirmed. There were proposals in place, but the school has been left for over 7 months now. Demolition has been brought forward due to the damage and subsequent media attention, but still no word on what happens after this
3. Maintain grounds. The school is in a bushfire prone area, and leaving to overgrow, be vandalised and chemicals from the trades area left in the school is a significant risk. Had the school grounds been cleaned and maintained, the damage would be less.
4. Keep the community informed. Nearby residents are fearful for their properties due to the vandalism and fire risk. The cost of police and CFA attending on a weekly basis would be significant, and could have been avoided has a proper exit plan and close plan been in place and followed by Department of Education management.
I hope other school closures are given more consideration and respect in the future. Not just to me as an upset ex-student, but to the local community and public purse.