Multi-million pound improvement works to Pitlochry High School have been significantly impeded by the pandemic, councillors have heard.
At a meeting of Perth and Kinross Council’s lifelong learning committee on Wednesday, members were updated on the progress of the Highland Perthshire Learning Partnership (HPLP) project.
Among the aims of the project is to improve the Pitlochry High School building.
This includes increasing dining capacity for secondary and primary pupils, as well as improving social space provision for secondary pupils and providing better parking on school grounds.
However due to the pandemic, the project was essentially put “on hold” as professional resources are diverted.
Carol Taylor, service manager (resources) at Perth and Kinross Council, said: “We have been quite hampered in relation to Covid, especially on the HPLP project.
“The property sub-group met two weeks ago but we hadn’t met regularly since March, basically because the project was, to all intents and purposes, on hold.”
An update report to the committee gave further information on the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic to the delivery of the HPLP project.
It detailed how key internal professional resources remain focused on Covid-19 recovery priorities, whilst non-essential works and surveys within operational schools had been put on hold when pupils returned last August.
“To date, a total of £1.13m has been spent on improvements to the fabric of the building, heating, lighting and wiring upgrades.”
HPLP update report
Work however, did begin again on the HPLP project in early December 2020 and the property sub-group expects options from the feasibility study to be presented “as soon as possible”.
Ms Taylor said: “We’ve always run the property sub-group in a way where we actually have a milestone.
“At the moment the next milestone will be the delivery of some of the feasibility work on the project.
“We have focused on the social spaces, the parking and dining to try and prioritise that.
“So when we have that feasibility back we will have a meeting with the sub-group but we will keep in touch with them through email.”
How much work has already been completed?
The committee report detailed that just under half of the funding allocated for improvements to Pitlochry High School has been used so far.
The money has been spent on maintenance to the school building, as well as upgrades to lighting and heating systems.
The report read: “In June 2016 funding of £2.8m was allocated to improve the accommodation at Pitlochry High School.
“To date, a total of £1.13m has been spent on improvements to the fabric of the building, heating, lighting and wiring upgrades.
“In addition, works have begun to improve the digital technology at the school with Wi-Fi and audio visual upgrades taking place.
“Remaining funding is available for upgrades to practical subject classrooms, although these works have still to be programmed.”
Despite the funding however, the report noted that the current budget would not be enough to cover the costs of additional improvement works that may be identified through the ongoing feasibility studies.
It read: “It should be noted that within the approved budget there are no further resources available for these works and the £2.8m is fully committed to the works identified.
“Any additional funding will have to be considered through an allocation from the Investment in the Learning Estate Programme and therefore works will have to be prioritised considering the overall learning estate priorities.”
Perth College hub
Also included in the HPLP were plans to develop a Perth College learning hub in Pitlochry High School by August 2020, making foundation apprenticeships in social services and health care available to fifth and sixth year pupils.
Opportunities to study subjects relevant to the local labour market such as outdoor activities, childcare, hospitality or working on the land would also be available.
A dedicated area with its own access has been identified and agreed as appropriate for the learning hub but due to Covid restrictions could not be used.
Consequently, a temporary alternative base for the hub has been taken forward as part of the feasibility study.