'Smelly school' reopens
STAFF and children forced to abandon their infant school two years ago because of a mysterious smell have returned to the building.Headteacher at St George's Infant School, Colchester, Valerie Hollanders said she felt the school was "like a family" again after having to spend the last two years in nearby temporary accommodation.
STAFF and children forced to abandon their infant school two years ago because of a mysterious smell have returned to the building.
Headteacher at St George's Infant School, Colchester, Valerie Hollanders said she felt the school was "like a family" again after having to spend the last two years in nearby temporary accommodation.
Experts tried unsuccessfully to pinpoint the source of a smell that had left some staff complaining of sore throats and mouths.
Nearly £500,000 was spent on the investigation and installing a new impermeable membrane underneath the floor of the building, as well as placing air vents on the roof.
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Outside the school gates yesterdaythere was a mixed reaction from parents to their children's first day back in the Barrington Road building, where the only smell noticeable was of freshly laid carpets and paint.
Terry Duffett, whose six-year-old son Thomas was one of the few pupils at the school to have been in the temporary buildings for the full two years, slammed the "unnecessary delays" his son has had while work was carried out.
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He said: "The whole thing has been whipped up out of all proportion. There's been a lot of unnecessary scare mongering about something that really should not have taken two years.
"I feel really angry about what's happened and I know a lot of parents feel the same. It's the children who have suffered – they've been denied access to computers and other equipment.
"But I have to say, the headteacher has done a fantastic job – she deserves a medal for what she's had to put up with."
However,Leigh Goldhawk said she was "relieved" her son Karlin, six, was now able to go into a permanent school building.
She said: "It's about time – we've been waiting for this. It's like he's going to a proper school again.
"We've been told everything is now alright and we just have to be confident – I trust the teachers."
Staff now have to fill in weekly questionnaires that monitor their health. At the first sign of any strange symptoms or smells, Ms Hollanders can now use the newly installed hotline to the Local Education Authority in Chelmsford to call out a specialist.
"It's now probably the safest school in Colchester," she said.
"This was not a wild goose chase. There was some kind of emission here. Having been one of the most severely affected – I had to have a throat swab – I would not be here if I felt I would not be safe.
"What people have got to remember is that young children absorb emissions much more quickly than adults. We just had to be sure about it – that's why it's taken so long.
"Children have not suffered in the two years we've been away. School development advisors have told us our performance in the past two years has been good to exemplary.
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: "You can't take risks with the health and welfare of young children. Never before has anything like this happened in Essex and we are still dealing with the unknown."