A floating classroom could be moored in Clickimin Loch as part of new plans to ensure the replacement Anderson High School has enough capacity.
Work on the new school is due to begin this year after a deal was agreed over land at the rear of the Clickimin Leisure Centre.
It will house the main school building and halls of residence, as well as an access road and car park. Pupils will also be able to make use of some of the leisure centre’s facilities for PE lessons.
But new plans, which can only be revealed today, have emerged showing officials are looking into the possibility of siting a classroom on the water to the rear of the Clickimin Leisure Centre. It is thought the controversial floating classroom may be needed because demand for places at the new school could significantly outstrip the capacity of the proposed new building.
The idea – which would cost millions – emerged at an emergency meeting with school designers who heard that comments about the standard of Shetland’s education being equivalent to that provided at Eton had prompted an unexpectedly high number of enquiries about school places.
Inspired by the successful use of floating accommodation barges in Lerwick and Scalloway harbours, to house gas plant workers, the unlikely idea of a floating classroom emerged.
If the project goes ahead it is thought it would be a UK first, although floating classrooms have been used elsewhere.
One teacher who has taught “on board” a similar structure said: “Some people may laugh at the idea of a floating classroom, but when there is pressure on the school estate and land is hard to come by, they offer an ideal solution.
“It is easy to connect all the required services to the barge, or whatever is used to house the classroom, and if it means the proposed new school can be ‘extended’, then it is a solution worth exploring.”
As the floating classroom would not be a permanent structure, gaining planning permission should be relatively straightforward.
However, transporting a barge to the Clickimin Loch would prove more difficult. Logistics experts told The Shetland Times equipment known as “a roof pill” and “a floor lip” would have to be installed to the barge prior to transportation. A spokesman for Jackson, Osborne, and Kent Enterprises said: “Negotiating the roads around Lerwick could be the obstacle that stops this idea in its tracks.”