The future of a pair of rural Aberdeenshire schools will be decided a council meeting next week.
The local authority’s education committee will meet to discuss the fates of mothballed Strachan School near Banchory and Gartly School south of Huntly.
Councillors have been urged to recommend the full council move to close Strachan’s school, and reassign its catchment area to create a new “dual zone” between Banchory Primary and Finzean School.
The primary, which had a capacity for 50 pupils and had a wide catchment area including Feughside, Glen Dye and Blackness, was originally opened in 1877, but over its more than a century of existence it struggled to retain enough pupils to justify being open.
The problem became so severe that it was finally boarded up in 2017 due to a lack of pupils, and it has remained empty ever since.
If the council agrees to move forward with councillor recommendations to officially close the school and make a “dual zone arrangement”, parents would be able to select either Finzean School or Banchory Primary to send their children.
And in the Gartly area, councillors will be asked to recommend to either further efforts to reinstate the building for use, or conduct a “full options appraisal” on “all options”, including closure.
All of Gartly School’s 23 pupils and nursery children were moved to Rhynie’s school, several miles away, after it was closed down in December 2018 after youngsters went home feeling sick, and smelling of kerosene.
It was established by council inspectors that as a result of an oil leak, soil contamination was present under the boiler room and main hall, and the building has been shut off to all since.
At next week’s education committee, following discussions between the council and parents of youngsters who are in the Gartly catchment, elected members will discuss the next steps for the future of the building.
Many mums and dads in the area have called on the council to do whatever it takes to keep the school open, raising concerns about their children being taught far away from home and lengthy school-runs.
At the time of the move to Rhynie, the school had a roll of 36, but this number now stands at just eight.
So far, £451,154 has been spent on remediation work at the school and treating the hazardous parts of the site, but it is estimated it will cost an extra £872,000 to reinstate the building as a school.
Demolition of the existing building and ensuring the site is safe would cost an estimated £245,000 – on top of the cash already spent.
Another option outlined is splitting the current Gartly catchment area to more than one school.
Councillors will discuss both of the schools next Thursday.