CONSTRUCTION will finally begin today on a new $18 million school for severely disabled children in Melbourne's north, following protracted delays due to a bitter stoush with a neighbouring Koori school.
The building works for the new Glenroy Specialist School, which were due to start last November, were put on ice after the Ballerrt Mooroop College protested against being forced to surrender some of its land.
The college's gymnasium and ground, used for welcome to country and smoking ceremonies, will be demolished.
The Koori school, which has 18 students, staged a sit-in protest and appealed to the state and Commonwealth to stop the works on the grounds that the gym and ceremonial ground had heritage significance.
The Education Department said the heritage claims were being investigated but they were either withdrawn or found to be without substance.
Regional director Wayne Craig said the department decided to proceed after mediation talks with the two schools and Moreland City Council failed.
Glenroy Specialist School, which caters for 150 children with severe disabilities, is currently located on Box Forest Road in Glenroy. The existing site is becoming unsafe, with two sections of the roof collapsing during the holidays.
Principal Raelene Kenny said it was an ''absolute relief'' the school was being built. But Broadmeadows Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group spokesman Gary Murray said: ''To just come in like they are doing without consideration of the mediation we've gone through is just an act of betrayal.''