WHAT wouldn't the planning executives within the Department of Education give for a crystal ball right now?
How dearly would they love the opportunity to gaze 30 years into the future just to see what Bathurst looks like?
Will there be hundreds of young people trying to squeeze into local schools or would they see millions of dollars in new state-funded infrastructure standing empty?
Decisions the department makes today might not be proved right for many decades to come but, if their decisions are wrong, it could be disastrous.
Booming enrolments at both Bathurst High and Kelso High next year - and expected strong enrolments for the next few years to come - have naturally turned the attention of many to the question of a third public high school for the city.
It's now more than 40 years since the city's second public high school was opened at Kelso and 10 years since it was rebuilt following a devastating fire.
We know that both public high schools are at or past capacity with temporary classrooms taking much of the overflow.
We're also aware that Bathurst has been one of fastest growing centres in regional NSW for 10 years now, with much of that growth coming from new families making the tree change out of Sydney.
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But that's all in the past; the question is, what does the future hold?
Bathurst Regional Council's own consultant demographers forecast the city's population to hit 55,000 people by 2036.
But those same demographers also tell us that much of the growth will be among the elderly whose schooling and reproducing days are well behind them.
So what to do about a third high school?
For the people of Bathurst, the worst result would be to hold off building a new school and forcing more and more students into already over-crowded schools.
But that thinking would be at odds to the department which would consider it far worse to invest in a new school that becomes a white elephant 20 or 30 years down the track.
It comes down to how much we can trust the forecasts. If Bathurst does hit 55,000 by 2036 then it will be far too late to start thinking about a new high school - much better to start planning now.
We've nearly missed the wave - waiting any longer will leave local high schools drowning in even more over-crowding.
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