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Parents fury at rats at crumbling school

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By Abbey Morton
Dumfries and West
Parents fury at rats at crumbling school

A SCHOOL in Dumfries is falling apart around pupils and staff with no permanent solution in sight.

A ceiling in a P1 bathroom at Loreburn Primary fell in recently, food preparation has been moved off-site due to a rodent issue and there’s reports of electric shocks from light switches.

Pupils and staff were due to move to new premises around two years ago as issues with the George Street school were beyond repair.

But Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray explained that delays by the Scottish Government to announce phase two of the ‘Schools for the Future’ programme, the reduction in funding available to local authorities and the change in the model of funding resulted in the original plans for Dumfries Learning Town Phase 2 having to change.

Now, members of the school’s parent council have hit out.

In a statement to this newspaper, they said: “We, the parents at Loreburn Primary School, are left feeling extremely disappointed regarding the council’s attitude toward the school.

“Having been promised a new school as part of Dumfries Learning Town and a move in 2020 that never came to fruition, we are left in a building no longer fit for purpose.

“We fought to get fire alarms put into the school back in 2019, something that wasn’t made a priority previously.

“Recently we were made aware of rats in and around the grounds, some spotted by parents.

“The school kitchens are now closed and meals are being shipped in from elsewhere, confirming there are indeed rats within the school.

“While measures are being taken, this is simply no longer good enough.”

The rodent issue has been confirmed by the council, who say that pest control was undertaken in late November as well as enhanced cleaning.

It is expected the onsite preparation of school meals will return from next week

The parent council added: “We believe that a move is a priority for the health and safety of our children and the staff and should not be continually put on hold.

“All this, coupled with renovations on the Art School to turn them into flats, compromises what little safe playground space the children have.

“For a town that prides itself on being a ‘learning town’ it is severely neglecting the only town centre school that holds a wealth of history.

“The staff are doing what they can with the issues they face but a quicker long term solution needs to be put in place rather than bandaging things up with small, short term solutions.”

Commenting, Cllr Elaine Murray said: “I do sympathise with parents and teachers concerns over the age and condition of the current building but I know that council officers, the headteacher and her staff and the trade unions have been working together to address the problems which arise from that.

“The quality of teaching and learning delivered in the school is an important factor in providing the best start for the region’s children and I know the headteacher and her staff are committed to providing that to a high standard.

“Meanwhile, having now been alerted to the problems, I will continue to maintain my interest.”

Dr Murray also clarified that the Minerva building at Dumfries Academy is required for decant while the academy is refurbished, meaning the move by Loreburn into the Minerva will have to wait until that work is complete.

Councillor Malcolm Johnstone echoed the concerns and said: “I have spoken to some parents and their biggest concern has been a lack of communication from the school about these issues.

“This is an old building which is due to be closed but it is imperative that whilst children remain in the school it is maintained to the standard required for the safety of the children and staff.”

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has children who attend the school and knows firsthand the frustrations felt in the school community.

He said: “When the Scottish Government rejected the bid from the council for funding for the refurbishment of Dumfries Academy, which would have seen a new Loreburn Primary in Minerva Hall, I know the parent council were rightly angry.

“They will be even more frustrated now.

“I’m pleased the council have decided to fund the refurbishment themselves and it can’t come quick enough.

“If these reports are correct, it shows why it is long overdue.

“In the meantime, the council need to tackle any short term problems with the building until any move happens.”

Regarding the ceiling collapse and electrical concerns, a council spokeswoman said contractors have checked the wiring and found no faults, but as a precaution replaced some metal faceplates with plastic ones, while the temporary repair of the ceiling is to be further investigated and a permanent repair actioned.

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