EIGHT Stockton schools expect to close on Monday and Tuesday to allow council engineers to carry out safety inspections after snow damaged the roof of another school in the Borough.
Teachers arriving at Junction Farm Primary School in Eaglescliffe, Stockton, this morning found the ceiling of one classroom to be sagging. Ceiling tiles, although still in place, were partially dislodged.
Headteacher Karen Norton called in Council engineers and closed the school before lessons were due to begin. Closer inspection found the weight of snow on the flat roof had caused a roof beam to buckle.
As a result, the Council is to begin immediate safety checks on eight other schools, all built to a similar design around 40 years ago. Although the checks will begin tomorrow, the work will run into Monday and Tuesday in some or all cases, and parents and pupils should check with the school and on individual schools' websites.
The schools are:
Bewley Infants, Billingham
Bewley Juniors, Billingham
Durham Lane Primary, Eaglescliffe
Egglescliffe Comprehensive, Eaglescliffe
Egglescliffe CofE Primary, Eaglescliffe
Prior's Mill CoE Primary, Billingham
The Links Primary, Eaglescliffe
Whitehouse Primary, Stockton
UPDATE : Wednesday 8 December - Engineers have now completed their inspections of the eight schools of similar construction to Junction Farm School, where the damaged beam was discovered on Friday. They found no further problems and the damage at Junction Farm therefore appears to be an isolated incident. The eight schools should all be open on Wednesday and we hope to have progressed work at Junction Farm sufficiently for it to reopen later in the week.
Councillor Ann McCoy, Stockton Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Fortunately, no injuries have been involved but, as always, the safety of our children and staff must come first.
"At Junction Farm, we are doing everything we can to get the school up and running as soon as possible, although we can't yet say when that will be. We hope the tests at the other eight schools will confirm all is well and that they can reopen on Wednesday.
"The amount of snow and the length of time we have had to put up with it has affected schools the length of the country. It's a great shame this will continue for these schools for a little longer."
Richard McGuckin, the Council's Head of Technical Services, said: "The damage at Junction Farm school has been caused by the sheer weight of snow on the flat roof of the building. The snow is about 10 inches (25 cms) deep and has buckled the roof beam.
"Specialist contractors will move in tomorrow to make the building safe and we expect to complete a temporary repair which may allow the school to reopen as soon as Wednesday.
"We are checking other parts of the Junction Farm school and have so far found no evidence of any further damage. However, as a precaution, we have asked eight similar schools to close while our engineers check their structural integrity."
Karen Norton said teachers at Junction Farm had found the problem just before children arrived this morning: "We had no choice but to close the school immediately and staff pulled out all the stops to let parents know.
"The Council's engineers were out here very quickly and they worked with our staff to make sure the site was safe and secure.
"Unfortunately, it means the school will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday.
"I'd like to thank all our parents and staff who have been so supportive - we will continue to keep everyone updated once we know the extent of the damage and how long it will take to put right."