MORAY’S head teachers are next to have a say on proposals for the future of the area’s school estate.
Community briefings have now drawn to a close, following the publication of initial options under the local authority’s Sustainable Education Review.
Throughout May, workshops with educational representatives will play out, before all the findings are reported to Moray councillors later this year.
Consultants Caledonian Economics were called in last year to explore how the area’s school estate could look in the future.
Moray’s 45 primaries and eight secondaries face a maintenance and repair bill, estimated at £70 million.
The local authority said it wanted to ensure any investment should be targeted to achieve the maximum educational benefit.
However, communities across the area swung into action when a long list of proposals, published in February, included closures, mergers, new-builds as well as the creation of three to 18 campus schools.
Milne’s High School in Fochabers was placed under threat, while more than 20 primaries were listed for possible closure, merger, or replacement.
Community sessions to gather feedback have since been held in the Elgin, Buckie, Forres, Keith, Milne’s and Speyside areas, with the final session for the Lossiemouth associated schools group taking place on Monday last week.
Fiona Wallace, who is chair of the closure-threatened Crossroads Primary’s school council, attended a meeting for schools in the Keith area.
While the educational benefits of the proposals were explained, she said the "underlying current" remained that of closures.
"I have to say that I don’t feel we have any new information," Mrs Wallace said. "They did talk about educational benefits this time; however, we all felt that it was still more about costs and savings.
"I put the point across about choice for parents to send their children to rural schools and that this shouldn’t be taken away."
Community representatives pointed out the educational benefits of small schools and associated "excellent" performance, and also raised concerns over the loss of rural assets and the impact of closures on their communities.
Mrs Wallace said: "Three to 18 campuses were mentioned again. However, with little new information as to how they would function or improve on our current education. It certainly seems that Caledonian Economics are very keen on this format."
The council stressed that no decisions have been taken. A final report is expected before the authority by December, before formal consultations get under way.