Two janitors’ houses in the grounds of a north secondary school have been demolished to make way for a long-awaited extension.
A Highland councillor has stressed more needs to be done to stem the capacity crisis at Culloden Academy as the first phase of work on the development draws to a close.
Contractors Morrison Construction have completed the demolition work .
Highland Council has allocated a budget of more than £7.7milllion for the project in an effort to tackle the growing capacity crisis faced by the Inverness school.
Work is due to commence on site next year ahead of completion for the 2023 school year.
The school is currently operating at almost 200 pupils over capacity, leading to calls from the school’s head teacher for additional space.
A total of six demountable units, comprising of 12 classrooms, are being erected in the grounds in the coming months ahead of the new school year in August.
Councillor Trish Robertson welcomed the long-awaited progress – but stressed the project forms a mere stepping stone of a larger investment needed to combat the growing crisis.
She said: “It is progress and that is to be welcomed.
“Demolition of the janitor’s houses was due to happen last October, but Covid got in the way and there were subsequent delays.
“It is really good that it has now gone ahead and we have actually seen things starting.
“I want to see it completed by August 2023 as promised.”
The councillor spoke of the urgency in constructing the temporary units to help relieve the growing pressure facing the over-crowded school next year.
Mrs Robertson added: “The extension is necessary because even after the works are completed, we will still be over capacity.
“The priority is to get the extra classroom space for August, it’s what the head teacher has asked for.
“Hopefully it will be in time for the new school season but I am holding my breathe to see if that’s going to happen. It is tight but hopefully they will get it done.
“We are now looking at what we can do to push forward further works.”
Work under way at last
Enabling works have now commenced on site following months of delays endured during the course of the pandemic.
Contractors have successfully demolished two houses on the ground ahead of upgrades to the toilet facilities located in the school’s main building in the coming weeks.
The progress comes as a design masterplan is being finalised by Scotland’s largest local authority to establish a long-term strategy for the redevelopment of the Culloden Academy campus.
Council officials aspire to replace all of the buildings on Keppoch Road in response to the projected influx of students in the coming years.
A council spokeswoman said: “Enabling works are underway which will see the demolition of two vacant houses, the refurbishment and expansion of the pupil toilet facilities in the main building, and the installation of six double-classroom modular units for the start of the new school session in August 2021.”
Looking for answers
Local representatives previously criticised the council for their lack of progress at the school, despite their earlier promises.
Members of Culloden community council formally wrote to Chief Executive Donna Manson in January to express their frustrations over the delays, calling them an insult to pupils.
Inverness councillors also called for action as children were forced to sit on the floor and eat their lunch in the dining room.
Councillor Ken Gowans said the school was facing an intolerable situation as hundreds of homes are earmarked for construction in the local area.
Catherine Bunn, chairwoman of Culloden Community Council welcomed the progress.
She said: “Everyone in the steering group is delighted to see progress being made. The team are working really hard to get that done but we do need to make sure that its right for the school.
“Especially with Covid at the moment, children need the space at school to spread about.
“The school extension is unavoidable. It’s got to happen. With the growth in the numbers of houses in the area and the forecast rolls, it’s absolutely essential that the Culloden area gets this extension.”