Flood-hit schools hopeful of reopening as clean up finally begins
Schools in some of the worst flood-hit areas of England will reopen after the half-term break, it is hoped, as a full-scale clean-up operation gets underway.
Gloucestershire Council was hopeful that all of its schools will “reopen as normal” next week, as conditions in the storm-stricken area appeared to be improving.
Peak Academy in Dursley, Gloucestershire, was damaged by powerful winds and staff arranged transport to take pupils home, while flood water caused other schools in the area to be closed.
Mark Rickard, spokesman for Gloucestershire Council, said: “Apart from the closure caused by high winds at Peak Academy, the five other school closures in Tewkesbury resulted from rapidly rising flood water either closing or threatening to cut off access routes to the schools.”
And he added that he was “hopeful that all schools will reopen as normal after the half-term break”.
In Maidenhead and Windsor, where four schools – two in Datchet and one each in Wraysbury and Marlow – closed their gates, a frantic clean-up is taking place at two schools to enable them to reopen after half-term.
Bisham Primary in Marlow and Wraysbury Primary were used as response centres by volunteers, the Environment Agency, council staff, police and armed services to co-ordinate the floods relief effort.
Datchet St Mary Primary and Churchmead Secondary schools were closed because of access problems.
At Wraysbury and Bisham, head teachers and council officials are assessing what needs to be done to get the schools ready. “This will include cleaning the kitchen, classrooms, equipment, and floors,” a council spokesman said. Some carpets will have to be replaced during the Easter holidays and the longer term impacts of flood water on some outside areas is still to be assessed.
Some schools remained open, despite flooding in access roads. In Derbyshire, parents and their children waded along Heath Lane to get to Findern Primary School, which has already had to close twice this year because of problems with the heating system.
Others have not been so fortunate, however. The name of one such school suggested it might have been able to defy the floods, but Noah’s Ark Nursery School in Gloucestershire suffered the same fate as many other schools when it was forced to close its doors.
The 40 children at the nursery in Tewkesbury were among thousands in many parts of the country who were given unexpected time off as raging seas and swollen rivers brought the school run to an abrupt halt.
Hundreds of roads were turned into rivers, making it impossible or dangerous for children to get to school. Dozens of schools were closed in all the flood-hit counties, including Surrey, Somerset, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall.
Most shut their gates because access roads were flooded, but some were also damaged by the storms and floods and face a huge clean-up and repairs operation.
And it is still unlikely that the flood waters will subside enough to make it safe for all schools to reopen next week.
The army was sent in to Knowle Green, part of Riverbridge Primary School in Staines, Surrey, to build sandbag defences to stop the water entering the school building. The 3rd Battalion of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment “did a fantastic job”, said a spokesman for the school.
“Hopefully if we can avoid too much more rain the levels will drop enough to allow some repair work to take place”
The school was one of seven in Surrey to be closed last week and at least two may not be ready to reopen after half-term, according to a council spokesman.
In Worcestershire, 13 schools were closed “to protect children from the floods”, the council said. Some schools said that they did not have enough staff to ensure the safety of all children.
Hanley Castle High School was shut because of “serious concerns about the safety and viability of journeys to and from school”.
Seven primary schools were closed in Devon and Cornwall and six in Tewkesbury after “taking into account the safety of pupils and staff and their ability to travel to and from the sites”, according to a spokesman.
Reporting by David Harrison