Initial assessment of Peebles High School damage is completed

An initial assessment of the damage caused by the Peebles High School fire has allowed Scottish Borders Council to begin to look at ways of delivering an education programme to pupils after the Christmas break.

Images taken of the damage caused by the fire at Peebles High School.

A number of Peebles High School’s buildings suffered significant fire and smoke damage following the incident on November 28, which led to an early decision to close the school until at least after New Year.

While the local community continue to be warned to stay away from the school for their own safety, work has started to make the site safe.

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Building assessment

As part of the initial assessment, the school site has been split into three areas.

Area One, including the Millennium Wing, science, drama, craft, design and technology and music classes, as well as the dining room, sports hall and assembly hall, has largely been unaffected by the fire. This is the only area where personal possessions have been recovered from.

Area Two, including modern languages, additional needs, maths tower and reception area, has seen significant smoke damage in places, and/or limited fire damage.

Area Three, including the PE gymnasium, art classrooms, pupil support rooms and toilet area, has been worst affected with significant fire and/or smoke damage. Emergency demolition works will get under way in sections of this third area this week, which will allow further structural and safety investigations to be carried out. These investigations will include a series of safety checks and inspections, including by specialist fire remedial experts.

The council is continuing to recover school material and belongings from the school site wherever possible, but there are still some areas of the building – such as Areas 2 and 3 – which are not yet accessible. More information is available at www.scotborders/phsfire.

Arrangements from January 2020

Work is now being undertaken to make plans for the medium to long-term, focused on providing the best possible learning arrangements for all pupils. As part of the planning we will consider the upcoming prelims, study leave and plans for the exams after Easter. This work includes consideration of what options there may be on the Peebles High School site to accommodate pupils.

The council will continue to keep pupils, parents and carers and staff fully updated as plans are developed.

School site security

The Peebles High site is secured, with security staff, CCTV and regular police patrols in place and people continue to be asked to stay away.

Chief executive Tracey Logan said: “Safety remains our main priority at the moment at Peebles High School.

“The site is currently hazardous and unsafe, which is why it is vital that the public stay away from the school.

“We are making progress with our evaluation of the site, but this is a complex and difficult recovery project.

“This is an extremely challenging time and we appreciate the continued understanding and support of the community.”

Reiterating the safety message, Police Chief Inspector Stuart Reid, said: “I cannot stress enough how dangerous this area is just now and the fencing has been put up for everyone’s safety. People should stay away from the area and we will be carrying out patrols to reinforce this message.

“Anyone caught within the school or tampering with the fence will be dealt with appropriately.

“The school is out of bounds, and I would ask anyone who witnesses anyone in the grounds to call us at the time on the 101 number, or 999 if it is an emergency.”

Charges made

Meanwhile, a second boy has been charged in relation to the wilful fire-raising at Peebles High School on Thursday, November 28.

Another boy was charged on December 4 in connection to the blaze at the school, which destroyed the old games hall and badly damaged other areas of the building.

The school is now closed until after the festive break, and alternative arrangements are in place for pupils.

A report will be sent to the Children’s Reporter.

A police spokesperson said: “We would remind the public that, as the person charged is below the age of 18, he cannot be named or identified for legal reasons as per the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.”