Councillors have backed proposals to reopen an Aberdeenshire school which has been closed for two years after a debate over whether it should be demolished.
Gartly School, near Huntly, has been closed since an oil leak in December 2018 with pupils and nursery children instead being taught several miles away at Rhynie Primary School.
Following a public consultation held in February, several options were put forward for the future of the building.
They included demolishing the school to merge its classes with another one, or building a new facility as a replacement.
Local councillors were asked to comment on the options at a meeting yesterday, with the majority backing the re-instatement of the school – which will require almost £900,000 in spending to be made safe again.
Their feedback will be taken on board during any future discussions on the situation.
Huntly councillor Robbie Withey expressed frustration with the lack of progress that has been made for the last two years, with parents left in limbo over their children’s education.
And he bemoaned a lack of clarity on the precise actions that could be taken to resolve the matter.
He said: “Local members can probably recite almost every word of these options, because we’ve seen them so often, but what we still don’t seem to have is all of the information and the actual figures that we actually need.
“I’m still very much in favour of reinstating the school – partly, because I think it’s best for the kids and for the local community, but also because it is the best known option that we’ve got.”
Councillor Gwyneth Petrie also supported re-opening the Gartly school, saying that she recognises the challenges, but “there will always be children looking for an education in the area”.
She said: “When we usually see small schools closing, it’s because there’s been a drop in enrollment naturally, whereas here it’s because of something that’s been outwith anyone’s hands really.
“What we’re hearing so far is that the children are unsettled, and my concern is that, regardless of what decision is taken, there is at least another 18 months in this situation.
“I fully support the reinstatement of the school, but I’d encourage continuing engagements with parents, because it’s an ever moving situation.”
However, opinions were split, with concerns there could be “no absolute guarantee” that contaminated soil under the building would clear up sufficiently to allow children to return.
Deputy council leader, Peter Argyle, argued that demolishing the school and having further consultation with locals was the best option.
“We cannot guarantee the outcome of spending what would be a very significant sum of money on reinstating the school,” Mr Argyle said.
“The consequences of going through all of that and then finding, at the end of the process, that the reinstated school cannot be occupied for reasons of public health and safety for children and staff is just not something I can actually imagine.
“That situation would be dire, to put it lightly, for the community and for the children.”