The Scottish Government was last night under mounting pressure to speed-up funding to build a replacement for the “most rundown” school in the north.
Local councillors and parents say Alness Academy is in a “shocking state” – with leaks and vegetation sprouting out of the roof.
Emergency repairs were approved yesterday to get the secondary through this winter and the next five years before a new school is built.
The local authority is now expected to spend thousands of pounds patching up a school that it plans to demolish.
Highland education director Bill Alexander told councillors in Inverness yesterday that recent checks had exposed “deterioration much greater than we envisaged”.
He said colleagues involved in the survey were “shocked” by the state of the building and that “significant work” was now urgently required.
There was unanimous backing from the education committee for the repairs to begin, even although the full cost to the budget-strapped council may not be calculated for several months.
Fears have been raised that the funding process to pay for the proposed replacement has become bogged down in bureaucratic red tape following an EU ruling on capital projects.
The council has had an offer of a tranche of Scottish Futures Trust funding, but it has reportedly been held-up.
Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Graham MacKenzie, a former rector of Dingwall Academy, said: “Such was the concern about windows falling in – with one narrowly missing a member of staff – that film was placed over the windows to ensure the glass was retained in 1996. So, it’s not a new problem and needs urgent attention.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Alasdair Christie claimed the 427-pupil school had “suffered because of the inaction of the Scottish Government” to secure funding for a replacement school.
Speaking after the meeting, Cromarty Firth councillor Martin Rattray said: “We’re frustrated that we’re having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a building that we’ll be pulling down, but the welfare of the young folk and the staff is paramount.
“The place was badly designed and there was a lack of maintenance, which is probably the council’s fault.”
Mr Alexander told the Press and Journal: “We’re confident the school is safe, but we need to make sure it’s fit for the winter and for the next five years.
“While we’re getting to the roof we can deal with other basic issues like heating, like power supplies this year and then be confident that it’s going to be fit for purpose for the next five years up to the lead-in for the new school.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We’re committed to assisting the council with improving its school estate through the ‘Schools for the Future’ programme and we’re working hard to ensure projects are completed as swiftly as possible.
“The deputy first minister advised parliament last month that the Scottish Futures Trust is engaging with the Office of National Statistics to consider the implications of recent changes in relevant EU classification guidelines, which is likely to take a period of some weeks.
“The trust is in close contact with project partners to keep them updated of the progress.”