After several years of lobbying by the community the provision of secondary education for South Gippsland youth became a reality in February 1912 when an Agricultural High School was established at Leongatha. Sixty students enrolled and classes were held in a room at the Leongatha State School, then in Jeffery St, and in the Rechabite Hall in Roughead St. Arthur Mesley was recruited as the first Headmaster and, with his knowledge of agriculture, set about creating a school to serve the entire South Gippsland region. The site for the school was a section of the Leongatha Labour Colony located on the corner of Nerrena Rd and Horn St. The Labour Colony was a 800 acre experimental farm which was set up by the State Government in the 1890’s depression to provide unemployment relief. A school farm was established where the East campus now stands and agriculture was a significant part of the curriculum in those early years.
The Oak Tree
The Bristol buildings surrounding the original Oak Tree
The first school building was constructed during 1912 and was ready for the use in 1913. The Sloyd Room , to be used for woodwork, was erected in 1913 and still stands on the same spot. An Algerian Oak was planted when the school first opened. This is known simply as “The oak tree”. I wish it could talk for it has seen everything.
By 1930 the school farm was running at a loss and the education department decided to close it. The word agricultural was taken out of the school name. In 1933 the original school building was destroyed by fire, only the Sloyd Room remained. The current heritage building replaced the earlier structure and was opened in 1935.
The 50’s and 60’s
Marching girls group 1960’s
With the increase in students after World War Two came a need for more rooms. Army huts were used and in the 1950’s Bristol buildings were erected. They were so named because these pre fabricated structures were supposedly made from old Bristol Bombers from WW2.
New buildings followed with Mesley Hall in 1965 and the cream brick building, known as the 60’s then the 30’s, in 1966.
The Technical School
Again local lobbying lead to the development of the Leongatha Technical School which began in 1967 in portable class rooms at the rear of the High School. By 1970 the new Technical School occupied the area where the farm used to be.
The High School celebrated its 60th anniversary with a “Back To” at which a time capsule was buried.
The High and Tech both progressed and by the 1980’s plans began to amalgamate the two schools and form Leongatha Secondary College. The first combined program was the High-Tech 12 course for senior students which began in 1985. The amalgamation happen in 1990, a new uniform and a new identity. Years 7 to 10 occupied the old high school site and Years 11 and 12 the old Tech site. They became known as The East campus (Tech) and The West Campus (High). As student numbers declined Year 10 moved to the East.
The new centre wing was opened in 1990, many portables were taken away and Mesley Hall was redeveloped. This saw the construction of a new food technology centre and music facility.
The future whole scale redevelopment of the school site and the establishing of an education precinct is going ahead and should be a great gain for the school.
Ever forward, the motto of Leongatha High School since 1912.