Mid Wales

Welshpool High School closed to 950 pupils after flood

A Powys secondary school is closed to nearly all pupils after burst water pipes, tanks and radiators caused extensive flood damage.

A clean-up operation has begun at Welshpool High which is shut to 950 children on Wednesday as term begins, with only A-level students allowed to return.

Damage to the kitchen ceiling has led to concerns about asbestos.

Head teacher Jim Toal said the flooding was discovered on New Year's Eve.

A theatre, two gymnasiums and a science lab had been affected, but the school kitchen was causing the biggest headache, he said.

Mr Toal said he might have to hire a mobile canteen in the short-term because he did not know when the kitchen would be given the all clear by health and safety officials.

He said: "The school theatre, corridors, the two gymnasiums and the kitchen have been affected, and this has left us with a massive headache at the start of the new term.

"The problem is compounded by brown asbestos which was in the kitchen ceiling, and I understand this is the worst asbestos to deal with.

"I have to wait for the Health and Safety Executive to give me the all clear when it's safe to reopen the kitchen."

Mr Toal said workers from Powys council and other contractors had been cleaning up for the last few days, and a specialist team would be hired to work with the asbestos. He added that the school would be closed to pupils, apart from sixth formers, at the start of term on Wednesday.

'Back to normal'

The cost of the damage is not known, but it is thought to run into the tens of thousands of pounds.

"We had the heating on over the holiday, but the temperature was so severe it caused freezing and it looks like the problem occurred when it started to thaw," added Mr Toal.

"Only the sixth form is allowed in tomorrow and then we'll take it on a day by day basis. Sixth formers have exams next Monday.

"We might be able to allow years 10 and 11 in later in the week and then years seven, eight and nine, but we have to be mindful of health and safety."

Mr Toal said he might ask parents to provide packed lunches until the school kitchen reopens.

Chair of the school governors, Graham Lewis said conditions at the school had been "pretty horrendous" when he was called to the site on New Year's Eve.

"We have got quite a mess to deal with, but I'm glad to say that it is rapidly improving as the days pass," he said.

"Our main priority is to get the school open again.

"We were closed the last three days before the Christmas holidays due to the severe weather, so this is really impacting on their education.

"We're hoping to have everybody back in the school by the early part of next week."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites