Traumatised teachers whose school was engulfed by a massive fire are still suffering the emotional after effects, a report has revealed.
Flames tore through Park Primary School in Invergordon last February, destroying much of the building.
Teachers had to hurry pupils out of classrooms and could only look on in horror as the blaze reduced the school to cinders.
Highland councillors will next week meet to debate plans for a replacement, with the preferred option being to build a new £15.3 million school on the site.
A detailed report being presented to the full council outlines the full impact the major incident – and two recent blazes at remaining parts of the school – have had on the community.
And it confirms that the drama was sparked by a faulty battery in a laptop.
The papers state: “Due to the swift response of the school staff, they successfully evacuated all 160 pupils and took them to the emergency centre at Invergordon Academy.
“Distress levels were very high across pupils and staff from both schools.
“As the emergency services arrived, the anxiety levels in the town were very high, with many parents rushing to the scene and academy to find their children.
“The fire resulted in the loss of the main building, pupils’ and staff members’ personal belongings.
“In recognition of the significant trauma to the whole community, educational psychologists prioritised support from the following morning.”
“Some staff were unable to return to teaching, and needed time to emotionally recover.
“This remains the case today.”
The report adds: “The community were significantly hampered by the pandemic lockdown three weeks after the fire.
“This significant impact on society, as a whole, exacerbated the situation for the Invergordon community.
“Despite this high level of stress, the school staff adapted and overcame and moved once more into a different model of delivering learning and teaching.”
On February 27 this year, the remaining parts of the Victorian building were found to be on fire and what was left of it was “devastated”.
The report states: “It had been planned that the nursery would return to Park site after Easter and the primary school would return to a temporary demountable school at the site in August.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the second fire, this is no longer possible.
“The effect on the pupils, staff and whole community is devastating given this second fire in the middle of the pandemic.”
There was then another small fire discovered earlier this week, which was quickly extinguished. The last two blazes are under investigation.
Children will need to remain in the current Invergordon Academy building until further notice.
Council leader Margaret Davidson has written to Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney seeking a meeting over funding for a new-build school.
She said: “This has been a particularly traumatic event and it will take both children and staff time to recover.
“The preferred option would be to replace Park Primary with a new-build primary school and also combine South Lodge Primary on the Park site, with potential for further expansion if required at any point in the future.”
Mrs Davidson added: “As you know, this is a community that has endured a very difficult time and this would make a huge contribution to revitalising that community and giving them hope for a brighter future.”
This story was updated on April 7, 2021, to remove references to some teachers still not being emotionally ready to return to work. This detail was our interpretation of the report’s statement that “Some staff were unable to return to teaching, and needed time to emotionally recover. This remains the case today.” Highland Council have since clarified that the last sentence referred only to the continued need for emotional support and that no teachers remain off as a result of the fire. We are happy to clarify this.