Schooling plans at Park Primary in Invergordon and for multimillion-pound Tain campus under spotlight as Highland councillors welcome progress
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PUPILS at a fire-ravaged Ross-shire primary school may be able to return to the site next spring after councillors unanimously backed plans to install temporary mobile classrooms.
A special meeting of Highland Council last week agreed a range of building priorities – including work to ensure that pupils can finally return to Park Primary, which was devastated by a blaze in February.
The new Tain 3-18 campus was also reaffirmed as the council's top building priority at the same meeting, in a move warmly welcomed by local councillors.
Under the Park Primary proposals, three double classroom units, which are currently based at Merkinch Primary in Inverness, will be relocated to the Invergordon site once they are removed from the recently extended school.
Additional work will also be required to replace other facilities lost in the fire, including the kitchen and dining area, as well as a biomass boiler and the re-roofing of the nursery block.
The moves come after a survey of parents in Invergordon found that a majority wanted their children to return to the Park site until a permanent rebuild can be erected, rather than continue with the current arrangements where the children have been decamped to Invergordon Academy.
Cromarty Firth ward councillor Maxine Smith welcomed the development. Speaking at the meeting, she said: "The Park parents, families and children have been through a huge trauma, and then there's Covid on top.
"While they were welcomed in the Academy it wasn't ideal and the children were still stressed about that.
"A consultation survey said they do want to move back".
But she added that the measures should also not distract from the need for a "new school campus" in Invergordon, adding that some schools were in need of replacement.
Fellow Cromarty Firth member Pauline Munro added: "I'm over the moon for Tain, but I'm also very thankful for all the work that went in to help Park. The parents will be absolutely relieved that something is now moving."
Parents and pupils of Park Primary will need to wait until at least next April before being able to move back to their school, however.
The report before councillors said that this would be the earliest the work could be completed, adding: “This is subject to there being no significant delays due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic or adverse weather conditions over the coming months, and that the necessary statutory approvals and procurement activities can be taken forward as planned."
Meanwhile, the decision to restate Tain's new joint school campus as the council's top building priority, won a warm welcome from councillors across the Highlands, and the local Tain ward in particular. All going well, the new school could welcome its first pupils in the 2024/25 academic year.
Cllr Derek Louden said: "I'm sure everybody in Tain welcomes today's confirmation of continuing progress."
He also welcomed plans to pursue a Passivhaus concept for the school. These energy saving measures are more expensive to install but are expected to bring far greater cost savings over the life of the building.
Cllr Fiona Robertson added that the Tain campus had been identified as a replacement priority 10 years ago and that the town's Craighill Primary had long been deemed to be the "worst school building in the Highlands", so she was "delighted that finally it can move forward. Our community are now fully behind the [proposed] site."
And fellow ward member Alasdair Rhind also expressed his pleasure that Tain remained the council's top priority, adding: "Let's hope it adheres to the [building] time line and in 2024/25 we will see a new school."