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3 March 2014, 06:00
With flood waters subsiding in Winchester, pupils are set to start returning to St Bede Church of England Primary School from today, Monday 3 March.
Hampshire County Council, the head teacher and school staff are carrying out a phased return with all pupils expected back by Friday 7 March.
In early February, a decision was made by the County Council and the head teacher to part-close the school as a significant proportion of the drains were full of floodwater and the playgrounds were not safe for children to use. As a result, many of the toilets were not functioning and some of the emergency escape routes were compromised by the flood water.
Hampshire County Council worked closely with the head teacher and staff at the school to minimise disruption to the pupils’ education. Plans started immediately for around 330 children from Reception to Year 4 to relocate to temporary classrooms sited at Henry Beaufort Secondary School. While the temporary classrooms were being set up, The Westgate School provided temporary teaching accommodation for Year 3 and 4 pupils and Kings’ School provided classrooms for Year 2 pupils. Generous offers of help were also made by Winnall Primary School, Winchester Discovery Centre and Winchester Area Community Action (WACA).
Councillor Peter Edgar, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Education, said: “Following advice from the Environment Agency and the Met Office, and with flood waters receding, we have taken the decision to re-open St Bede Church of England Primary School in Winchester. I am extremely pleased that we are able to re-open the school sooner than anticipated, which will allow the children to return to their education as normal.
“We are happy with our decision to create temporary classrooms at Henry Beaufort Secondary School as it was the right thing to do given the uncertainty of the situation at St Bedes. These classrooms will be kept for the foreseeable future in case the exceptional wet weather returns and flood waters rise again.
“We have been keeping a close eye on developments at the school, providing constant support and advice, with the County Council’s Children’s Services, Property Services and Catering Service departments working closely together to help the school minimise interruption to the children’s education. The head teacher and staff at St Bede have been working extremely hard in difficult circumstances and are to be commended for their commitment and resolve. Importantly, the children deserve praise too for the way they have coped remarkably well. I would like to once again thank everyone involved, especially the head teachers at Henry Beaufort Secondary School, The Westgate School and Kings’ School for their co-operation and agreement to provide temporary teaching accommodation.
“I would also like to thank the County Council’s contractors and removers who stepped in at short notice to make all the emergency arrangements possible. They have worked tirelessly with us and the school to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children is maintained.”
Louise Fitzpatrick, Head Teacher at St Bede Church of England Primary School, said: “I am delighted that we are able to re-open the school sooner than expected. Our priority during the floods has been to maintain the children’s education with as little interruption as possible, while ensuring their health and wellbeing.
“I am very grateful to the County Council, Henry Beaufort School, The Westgate School and Kings’ School for coming to our aid, as well as to the staff and parents who have been so supportive during this challenging time.”
All pupils will return by Friday 7 March, including the 110 pupils in Years 5 and 6 who have remained at the school during the floods as temporary sanitary facilities were available for them to use.
Before the school opens, the playground will be jet-washed as advised by the Environment Agency.
Following the foods in 2000, Hampshire County Council invested around £2 million to refurbish St Bede School and, in particular, raise the floor level sufficiently to protect the building from future flood damage. In spite of the unprecedented volumes of rainfall, rising ground water and river levels, the school buildings have remained dry meaning that preparations can now be made to return to the school building as the flood water recedes.