£3.6m set to be spent rebuilding Catherine Junior School, Leicester
A city school severely damaged by fire will be rebuilt at a cost of £3.6 million.
Work on Catherine Junior School will start as soon as possible, Leicester City Council announced yesterday.
The existing structure will be stripped back to its original steel frame and rebuilt on the existing foundations.
Some £2.4 million of the cost will come from the council's insurance settlement, and the rest from its Basic Need Fund – cash provided by the Government to help councils ensure there are enough school places.
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Pupils from the fire-hit school are learning in temporary buildings on a playing field at Abbey Primary, in Belgrave, Leicester, less than a mile from their old site in Brandon Street. Assistant city mayor Councillor Vi Dempster said: "I'm delighted we've now got a way forward, after what has been a difficult few months since the fire."
A number of options were being considered by the council, including removing damaged cladding and refurbishing the building, the cost of which would have been met entirely by the insurance settlement.
Another option was to rebuild Catherine Junior on a larger scale and develop it into a primary school to incorporate the infants and juniors.
Catherine Infants School is on a separate site near the juniors, in Ulverscroft Road.
However, this option would have cost the council between £6.2 million and £9.2 million extra on top of the insurance payment.
Now the way forward has been decided, site clearance and design work will start soon and the building should be completed by April 2014.
Pupils will relocate to their former site upon completion, and Abbey School playing fields will be restored to their former condition.
The council is keen for work to start as soon as possible as the temporary buildings at Abbey Primary are rented and will only be paid for by the insurers until February. Each additional week beyond that will cost the council £15,000.
The fire, in October, was caused accidentally by workers fixing the school's roof. It destroyed the gym and left the rest of the building smoke-logged.
Harmful asbestos was also released into the air when the blaze took hold.
Pupils were initially spread across several schools in the city until a temporary solution was found using land at Abbey Primary.
Mrs Dempster said: "I've been really impressed by Catherine Junior and all the other schools which pulled together to help minimise the disruption for pupils."
A mobile classroom on the site will be retained – a decision which was criticised by councillors on the children and young people scrutiny committee at a meeting last month. Committee chairman Ross Willmott said the option to rebuild the school seemed sensible but he would like there to be enough classroom space to enable the mobile to be disposed of.
Joy Denning, head teacher of Catherine Junior School, was not available yesterday to comment on the proposals.