Two new multi-million pound schools opened in the Highlands today as pupils began returning to class after the October break.
Merkinch Primary in Inverness welcomed children to its 14 classrooms, while staff moved into the new Alness Academy ahead of a phased opening to students from tomorrow.
Merkinch also includes a three-room nursery, four-court games hall and an external multi-use games area. A second phase will see the completion of playing fields and the refurbishment of the original 1876 school building to provide new kitchen and dining facilities as well as accommodation for Merkinch Family Centre by August 2021.
Head teacher Jillian Kean said: “The new building will not only provide us with extra space and facilities but will help us to focus on our school’s future during these challenging times”.
Deputy Provost of Inverness Bet McAllister praised the staff for the commitment to children’s education. She said: “What an amazing school from the outside. It’s just unbelievable.
“It’s a busy, busy school and the head teacher and the teachers are doing a fantastic amount of work. They all work to help every child in that school.”
Earlier this month around 350 pupils stood outside the school to thank construction company Robertson and the council’s project team for the new building.
The new Alness Academy will cater for 660 pupils. It includes a sports community building with six-lane swimming pool, four-court games hall and gymnasium as well as two floodlit 3G pitches and playing fields.
Both schools are part of the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme, managed by the Scottish Futures Trust.
Highland Council education chairman councillor John Finlayson said: “As schools go back it’s clearly even more exciting for certain communities, particularly Merkinch and Alness with pupils going into brand new schools. It’s an exciting time for the young people, for teacher and parents and the wider community.
“Our ambition is to ensure that we continue to build new schools in the Highlands in partnership with the Scottish Government.”
He said the council has put forward Broadford Primary and Nairn Academy as priorities for the next round of funding under the government’s learning estates investment programme and hopes to hear feedback by December.
“We hope that it will provide even more good news for the Highlands given the hard work I have been doing with the community and finance secretary Kate Forbes on this.”