Fledgling plans to breathe new life into Scalloway’s defunct secondary school have been given a thumbs up by parents.
Proposals to move primary and nursery lessons to the empty junior high building were welcomed at a parent council meeting last night.
The move could be possible thanks to a joint approach between the council and local NHS which may see a new health centre set up in the current primary and nursery department.
Should they go ahead the changes could see the minor one-way road which currently cuts between the school building and the nearby sports courts re-routed around the complex perimeter.
That would allow an extended school play area to sit next to the building, keeping children well away from any traffic.
The new layout will also include a dedicated bus drop-off point.
Key benefits in the proposals include:
• An increase in parking with 27 extra spaces;
• A bigger playground for nursery children with an additional 40 square metres;
• An extra 920 square metres for the primary school playground.
The council’s roads department is also being consulted over possible traffic-calming measures which could be introduced.
Access to the new health centre, leased from the SIC to NHS Shetland, would be moved to the other side of the building. A small section of the building would be retained for further, as yet undecided, SIC use.
NHS Shetland is willing to pay an estimated £1.8 million to pay for the associated works of the project and the car-park and road alignment.
The proposal still needs to be given the green light from SIC councillors – first by the education and families committee on 20th March, and then by the Full Council on 24th April.
Full planning also needs to be approved.
However around 20 parents welcomed outlined plans by NHS and council officials, as well as architect Gillian Allan from Glasgow-based Threesixty Architecture.
NHS Shetland’s capital projects manager, Lawson Bisset, said the proposals had emerged as a preferred option following a clinical strategy review amid concerns over disabled access at the current health centre.
“There is an opportunity for us to partner with the SIC and for us to use a piece of vacant accommodation. It would seem logical to progress that further.”
Mr Bisset admitted the work would cause some disruption once it commences, assuming it is given council approval, at the end of this year.
But he said “windows in holidays” were already being examined. He insisted he was experienced in ensuring patients were not disrupted while hospital work was ongoing.
The meeting heard it would be written into the contract that disruption should be kept to a minimum.
Reaction was well-mannered and largely positive.
Some concerns were raised about the level of traffic which could be arriving at the school, especially given the anticipated extra traffic at the health centre.
But Ms Allan pointed out patients coming to the health centre would be arriving in time for alloted appointments throughout the working day, which should prevent a bottleneck from developing.
Some of the worries were around children getting access to the nearby games hall, which would still require them to cross the road leading into the complex.
Head teacher Morag Fox said children were already supervised when they crossed the route.
“That certainly could be tightened up,” she offered.
SIC councillor David Sandison, who was present for part of the meeting, said the traffic levels should be no worse than when the school operated as a junior high.
Should the move go ahead the school will enjoy extra space, although the school already has enough capacity to take in more children.
Mrs Fox said the school roll in Scalloway had remained steady.
She is a fan of the idea – not least because it would secure the future of the building which is “already beginning to deteriorate and damp”.
She said there were a lot of “different folk” wanting to use parts of the building.
“My staff and myself are hopeful this can work for everybody.”
Asked for their reaction parents responded warmly to the plans.
One mother insisted: “The plans you have there are brilliant, especially for the bairns.”
Another said: “It’s safer, and far better.”
Speaking after the meeting, local parent council chairman, Kenny Pottinger said he was encouraged by what parents had been shown.
“I think everybody’s been brolly happy. There’s likely no many other options for the primary to be moved to the secondary [department], so if this goes ahead it should be good. There are a lot of fine details still to speak about, but overall it looks fine.”