If you live in the Balmedie School catchment area, you may have found a flyer on your doormat this week.
The leaflet calls for support in a campaign for the council to pick a site for a new Balmedie School.
Campaigners say it is necessary in order to accommodate future roll pressures and housing growth in the area.
But the council said that the actual growth is off the pace of published projections. And while the council is working to ease pressure in the area, there is no plan for a new Balmedie.
What does the Balmedie School campaign want?
Former councillor Allan Hendry is spearheading the campaign.
He said that he pressed for a solution to Balmedie’s roll issues in 2008.
Education staff at the time supported his call for a new school site in the Balmedie catchment area, he said.
But Mr Hendry hasn’t seen the progress he wanted.
“It was agreed at that time that a full review of the primary school provision along that whole corridor between Black Dog and Ellon would be carried out as a matter of urgency.
“And here we are, nine years down the road, and we’re now at crisis point. Not only at Balmedie, but across the whole school estate.
“Something that I don’t want to see is children being sent to other schools in the area.”
Mr Hendry described how previous expansions to increase capacity and accommodate road traffic have left only a “postage stamp” of a play area on site. He referenced a March 2013 council meeting, in which members were shown projections that the school roll could hit 582 and need 11 extra classrooms by 2021.
But Mr Hendry said the work already done at the school means the current site can’t accommodate those classes.
“Four classrooms have already been provided but what is left of the school playing field simply could not accommodate a further seven additional temporary classrooms.”
Mr Hendry pointed out that it takes years to plan and build a new school. And many funding options require an identified build site.
He urged interested parents to contact local councillors and representatives and ask for site approval.
Where does the council stand?
Aberdeenshire Council took issue with some of the numbers in Mr Hendry’s leaflet. Although council records say Balmedie could be over capacity by 2025, a spokesperson recently reported that the current roll is 394. That’s below the 402 that was projected last year and below the roll in 2013.
The spokesperson went on to say that signs point to earlier projections of overcrowding being premature.
“While we do expect the roll to rise, this is happening slower than forecast due to slower rates of housebuilding and larger groups of pupils moving on to secondary. Future housing land projections for this area are not certain at this time.
“The stated capacity of 484 for the school only counts the teaching spaces within the main building, as the non-linked units are currently used as general purpose spaces.
“These would free up further capacity, if needed.
“Council officers continue to assess additional primary education provision for south Formartine with a view to easing capacity pressures at Balmedie School.
“The Planning Service and Education and Children’s Service have regular meetings about the pace of housing development, so appropriate measures can be taken to meet the community’s needs.”
The spokesperson added that keeping siblings at the same school – something Mr Hendry warned might not be possible without more room at Balmedie – is a priority, but stopped short of a guarantee.
“Please rest assured that we would always work to support and enable siblings to enjoy the same school setting.
“Any proposed change to school catchment areas is always subject to extensive parental and community engagement.”