This is how Doncaster's most flooded school coped with disaster
Just a few weeks ago, their classroom was under 2ft of water.
But now, after nearly a month of emergency measures to keep their education going, all the pupils at flood-ravaged Castle Hills Primary School are back on their Jossey Lane site.
It is not the first time Castle Hills, at Scawthorpe, has flooded. It was among the schools hit by the floods in 2007.
This week, the school opened up two new mobile classrooms on its playgrounds, with its foundation stage and year one pupils taking up the places inside.
It means for the first time since the floods of November 7, the whole school is back on one site.
The new buildings are fully kitted out with all the equipment needed for a modern classroom, right town to the interactive whiteboards, with staff and pupils saying they were pleased to be back.
For the last two weeks, since the floods, the key stage two pupils at the school had been at the Don Valley Academy sixth form block, with 129 pupils taking a daily 10-minute walk between the two sites on Jossey Lane.
But assistant headteacher Neil Harris said there was delight at being back on site.
Mr Harris said the first clue there was a problem was when some of the school teaching assistants had raised concerns about the rising water levels late on the Thursday afternoon of the floods.
By 6pm, staff and pupils were told the school would be closed the next day due to flooding.
Parents were told it would be closed – but staff came in as normal.
They arrived to find water that would have been up to knee depth. Benches and play equipment in the foundation playground were completely submerged, where the water had poured in off the suffounding fields, which are said to have a high water table. The school, and several nearby homes, was under water.
“Everyone came in wearing waterproofs and wellies the next day,” said Mr Harris. “I think people wanted to go straight in and clean up – but there was just too much water. The council wouldn’t let us near the water because of contamination from sewage. It was more about assessing the damage at that point.”
The result of the flooding was all the tables and chairs had to be thrown away. The staff were particularly upset to have to throw out around 900 reading books, many of which teachers had bought themselves. They were also upset to have to throw away the children’s written work that had been wrecked.
Scooters which had been donated by parents for children to play with in the playground also had to be thrown away.
For the books, this has sparked an appeal to replace them. A publisher has also become involved and says it will help, as have a number of local businesses.
The school has been pleased with the help from local businesses and from the support from Don Valley Academy.
“Don Valley were fantastic with us,” said Mr Harris. “They looked after the catering for our pupils who have school meals, and gave us the sixth form block for as long as we needed it. For the children, I think they saw it as an adventure. We suspended the curriculum for a couple of weeks and did work based on floods.
“Behind the scenes, a lot of work has been going on to arrange for the mobile classrooms.”
One of the playgrounds is currently out of action as it is needed for the workmen who are now starting the work of restoring the school to its previous condition. The school has staggered play times and dinner times so that all the children are able to use the grounds that are still in action, but without any bigger children running into smaller ones by accident.
Where the flooding caused the damage, all the furniture has gone, and the plaster has been stripped from the walls up the level of the flooding. The whirr of heaters in use to dry out the area fills the air, while workmen move around. The rooms do not look like classrooms any more, and with the walls shorn of the children’s work that would usually adorn them, Mr Harris has to think to remember which room was home to which year group.
Council officials have said they believe the rooms may be back in use in February. Staff hope this is the case but are prepared for the possibility it could be longer.
Mr Harris said: “What we went through in getting flooded was horrible. But there is a huge sense of relief to have all the children back here. It’s like returning home. And it means Christmas can get started, with rehearsals for the carol concert.”
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