Pupils awestruck as doors open at new Lossiemouth High School
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IT WAS a brave new world this week for Lossiemouth High School pupils who walked through the doors of their gleaming new school building after the Easter break.
Excitement was in the air as pupils filed into the long-awaited new building on Wednesday after an extra two days of online learning while staff helped unpack in excess of 5000 boxes to make the school ready.
The replacement school and community hub is the last of 117 new schools built under the Scottish Government's 10-year school plan, Scotland’s Schools for the Future Programme.
The £42 million campus, jointly funded by Moray Council and Scottish Futures Trust, has capacity for up to 800 pupils. The school roll currently numbers 520.
The three-storey school incorporates a community centre, library, swimming pool, games hall and 3G sports pitch.
The existing 42-year-old building will now be demolished to make way for the pitch, landscaping and new parking.
At the heart of the new learning environment is a vast central atrium, designed as a flexible social space. Three outdoor learning plazas mean pupils can even enjoy al fresco learning.
Awestruck pupils took in their new surroundings in organised tours throughout the first day, getting to grips with the layout.
Staff had been given an advance glimpse in the last few weeks of Term 3.
Headteacher Janice Simpson said there was a real buzz as pupils arrived for the big first day.
Mrs Simpson said: "We're really lucky – I think we're still pinching ourselves that this is our school!
"The staff did a fantastic job unpacking in two days.
"They just love it. It sounds a bit cheesy but it's almost like flowers that have blossomed because it's just so light.
"Because the classrooms are around the outside everyone has a super view, lots of light, and the corridors are wide. It's a much healthier environment.
"We're really lucky that coming back from Covid, we're coming back to this."
The head added: "We have all the classrooms we had before, along with a dance/drama studio, the fitness suite is part of the school, and there are shared community areas. The PE facilities include a big games hall and a smaller gym along with a classroom, which is fantastic.
"It's the quality of the rooms that's so different.
"The biggest change is the learning plazas. We have three learning plazas, which are outside classrooms, if you like. If it's a warm day staff can book a learning plaza for a different experience.
"There are breakout areas outside the curricular areas so seniors can study there and teachers can use them in extension to the classroom.
"The atrium is outstanding. In time, when there's no Covid, we can use this area for putting on events and performances. We can work with the community to start doing inter-generational events. Our music department could play for community groups and our HE department could cater for them – there is so much scope. It's really exciting.
"There's so much flexibility in how we can learn and it's going to be great as time goes on.
"It's just amazing."
The council’s chief education officer, Vivienne Cross, said the design of the school would inspire both staff and young people to achieve their full potential as well as benefit the wider community for many years.
The new school was given top marks by S6 prefects Thomas Letch (17) and Aimee Naldrett (17), who were on hand to point pupils in the right direction to classes.
Thomas said: "It's a big change but it's a good change.
"I'm taking PE this year and coming in and looking at the new PE facilities I was, like, this is going to be so much better. A lot of the kit at the old school was falling apart by the end. We've got new halls, new fitness equipment. We all just went 'wow'."
Aimee added: "In music there's a recording studio now and all these new things we never had before, so it's quite cool."
They believed their new environment would make a huge difference to pupils' whole learning experience.
Thomas said: "If you're in a dingy environment a lot of people turn off and might not concentrate, but in an engaging place, like say the new music rooms which are fabulous, or new labs for science, it's the kind of environment where you think, doing this is actually really cool and learning here is really nice."
Aimee added: "I think it really will help pupils to learn."
The project was developed and delivered by Hub North Scotland and built by Balfour Beatty, who had to cope with delays during lockdown.
Project director for Hub North Scotland Ewen Fowlie said: "This has been a brilliant team effort in the face of some challenging conditions, due to Covid-19, to deliver a wonderful facility which will be enjoyed by the Lossiemouth community for years to come.
"Not only has it resulted in a fantastic building, but it also created wider community benefits including 20 new jobs, employment for four new graduates, two new apprentices and 12 existing apprentices along with £23 million of work for Scottish small and medium-sized businesses."
Project lead at Balfour Beatty Jim McCluskie said: "Despite the challenges we have faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have remained focused on the safe and successful delivery of Lossiemouth High School.
"I would like to thank the public for their co-operation and patience whilst we completed this essential project that will service the local community for generations to come."
The new community facilities are due to open on April 26.