‘Uncertainty’ for schools as construction of new sites on hold due to virus
PUBLISHED: 13:32 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:32 03 April 2020
Norfolk schools face delays to the construction of their new sites after the county council suspended all its building works due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Pupils, teachers and parents at the affected schools are facing renewed “uncertainty” after the projects were put on pause.
Sites at Hethersett Woodside Primary, Trowse Primary and St Edmunds in King’s Lynn were expected to be completed this summer ahead of a September opening - but the pandemic has seen workers forced to down tools.
The county council said the measure was a necessary step to keep “construction workers and the wider community safe”.
And one headteacher insisted students’ education would not be compromised, despite the challenge of accommodating rising pupil numbers.
A total of 31 county council building projects have had to be abandoned during the outbreak, with 15 schools, including works on smaller scale projects, affected.
And Norfolk County Council said other schools may also face delays to works where they have directly employed contractors.
A spokesperson confirmed while there were no brand new schools opening in September, the three affected were all set to move in for the new school years.
They added: “The children are in existing school buildings where they can be accommodated in the short term. We are currently contingency planning with schools to ensure learning will not be compromised by this delay. “
John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services said: “Due to the pandemic we have taken the decision to temporarily suspend building works on school sites, in line with social distancing advice, to keep construction workers and the wider community safe.
“We do not know how long these measures will be in place and the health of Norfolk’s residents has to be our first priority.
“We won’t know the impact until we know how long the current restrictions are in place but would like to assure parents that every child in Norfolk will have a school place in September.”
Stuart Odell, headteacher at Trowse Primary, said: “We’ll have to change our plans because it’s very likely that the new school building won’t be open in time for September - but that’s assuming we’re open in September.
“We’ll use the space we’ve got available to house the children - we’ve got more and more children that want to come here. In time, that won’t work but we can probably squeeze people in.”
He said the school was discussing “four to five different ideas” about how to manage the situation but said there was no room on site for mobile classrooms due to a lack of field and playground space.
And he said rotating students in the morning or afternoon was “not being discussed” and added: “We’re certainly not compromising hours of education. We have a duty to provide 190 days of school.
“That isn’t in question.”
While a parent at Hethersett Woodside Primary said the uncertainty was likely to further “unsettle” children.
The parent, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “While I totally understand there really is no alternative, for a lot of parents this will create a lot of uncertainty in terms of where their child will start school in September.
“It’s already been quite a difficult process to explain to very young children, some of whom are likely to feel unsettled enough by the move as it is.
“This certainly won’t help.”
Hethersett Woodside Primary and St Edmunds did not respond to requests for comment.
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