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Asbestos removal is major reason behind Powys high school’s early Christmas closure

Welshpool High School (Pic: Phil Blagg) PB073-2018-4

REMOVING deadly asbestos has been revealed as a reason to close a Powys high school early for Christmas.

Tomorrow, (Friday – December 15) the Welshpool High School building will close for the Christmas holiday period.

Lessons and “wellbeing activities” for the last four days of the autumn term which finishes on Thursday, December 21 – will be held online.

The announcement in November of the need to close the school came out of the blue.

Council and school statements at the time made no mention of asbestos as a reason for the closure which they explain was needed so that: “urgent works can be carried out to its heating system.”

The announcement angered many parents – as they will need to juggle work commitments around childcare arrangements for hundreds of pupils who will be taught from home.

The extra reason for the closure was made during a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Wednesday, December 13.

Members were discussing items on the council’s Strategic Risk Register relevant to education.

These risks revolve around the council’s ability to fund school maintenance and improvement works.

Conservative Cllr Lucy Roberts said: “I want to be confident that the risks to individual schools are being adequately addressed so we don’t find a lot of schools where their boilers are not working, and they have to close down for a period of time.”

“Pupils education can be put back by major works.”

Cllr Lucy Roberts

Cabinet member for education, Liberal Democrat Cllr Pete Roberts said: “In respect of Welshpool specific work has been identified with the boiler area relating not just to the boilers but removal of Asbestos.

“That is being undertaken over the Christmas recess by specialist contractors while there are no pupils or teachers on the site.”

Cllr Pete Roberts

The Local Democracy Reporting Service had asked why the work had not taken place earlier in the year at a time that when inconvenience to parents and guardians could have been minimised.

A council spokesman said: “These are reactive works due to a water leak and not planned maintenance.

“The council’s advised the school leadership team that they required additional time to work in the boiler room.

“Works are programmed to be completed throughout the festive holiday period into the new year.”

They school is expected to “re-open as normal” after the Christmas holidays on January 9.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral and was once widely used in construction as a fire retardant material and also used for insulation purposes.

In large and undamaged pieces asbestos is not considered harmful but when damaged it can release smaller fibres that can be breathed in or swallowed.

Exposure to asbestos in this way is known to cause several types of cancer with the most common being mesothelioma and lung cancer.

Importing, supplying and the use of all asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999.