A new £30million secondary is finally due to be built to replace the “worst school building in the Highlands”.
Education chiefs are pressing ahead with plans for a new Alness Academy and are due to lodge a planning application within weeks.
The school building was branded the region’s worst in 2015 after vegetation and weeds were found growing out of the roof, with buckets laid out to catch the leaks when it rained.
And the Easter Ross academy was forced to close its doors earlier this year because of a flea infestation.
Now a proposal of application notice for the new school has been lodged with Highland Council.
Work is scheduled to begin early next year at the site on the school’s playing fields, and the building must be open by March 2020 to comply with Scottish Government funding conditions.
Local councillor Carolyn Wilson, chairwoman of the project stakeholders group, said: “I’m just delighted that it’s moving to the next stage.
“Alness Academy is in a dire condition and we desperately need this new school. There have been huge issues.
“It will be so good to see young people going into something fit for purpose. We are looking forward to it.
“It has to be finished for March 2020 and we’re on track. The contractors have been appointed and the budget is in place.”
The school is expected to cost £29.7million, with the Scottish Government funding £14.7million, and the local authority paying £15million, plus additional equipment costs.
Cromarty Firth councillor Maxine Smith said local members would be monitoring the project to ensure there was no repeat of delays and construction problems witnessed with the new Inverness Royal Academy and Wick Campus.
“It’s excellent to see it progress. It’s a good news story. We had issues with the old one as soon as it was built,” she said.
“I don’t want to see this going over budget by millions. This has to be done and done properly.”
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “The design of the new school continues to be discussed through the local stakeholder group, with further consultation to be taken forward as part of the proposal of application process.”
Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “We’re pleased that plans for the new Alness Academy are progressing. The new school will be a fantastic addition to the community and will be enjoyed for generations to come.”