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University of Edinburgh to take in displaced school children amid city-wide closures

The University of Edinburgh has offered up its facilities to accommodate Edinburgh schoolchildren for the month, amid a city-wide closure of schools that has displaced thousands.

In a statement to The Student, a spokesperson announced that the University was “currently in discussions with one school” to host classes in its academic venues, following an offer made earlier in the week. The arrangement would utilise space in Kings Buildings and is set to last until May 6, the spokesperson said.

Over 2300 pupils were displaced from their schools on Monday after the buildings were shuttered en masse over safety concerns. City Council officials announced over the weekend that the closures were a result of systematic structural issues relating to poor construction. All 17 of the closed buildings had been built under a public-private partnership agreement and managed under one organisation, Edinburgh Schools Partnership.

At issue is the integrity of the walls, which inspectors officials say are too hollow and unstable. The problems were first discovered when a wall collapsed in a school in January, and gained new prominence when a contractor raised concerns about two additional schools late last week, The Edinburgh Evening News reported.

In offering its spaces to house students and host classes, the University is helping the City Council plug a gap it has struggled to address on its own.  As the school displacement enters its fourth day, only three schools have made provisions to resume teaching on site, with the majority promising to resume next Tuesday.

Parents and carers have been told to make “childcare arrangements for the next week”, but many are struggling to cope with the sudden change. With school lunches unavailable, families are leaning on the city’s food banks for support, according to the Evening News. Threats of lawsuits and calls for accountability have begun to accumulate.

With its offer, the University joins NHS Lothian, Scottish Parliament and Hibernian Football Club, who have all volunteered the use of their own venues.

Speaking on the decision to get involved, Senior Vice Principal Charlie Jeffery called the offer part of a “spirit of good neighbourliness”, but added that it might fluctuate with exams on the horizon.

“We recognise the problems that the school closures will cause parents and children and – in a spirit of good neighbourliness – are striving to do what we can to help,” he said.

“The number of spaces we can offer will vary in the coming weeks as we enter exam season for our own students. We are working closely with the council to help where we can in this evolving situation.”

A spokesperson for the University pledged the institution would continue to look for ways to respond.

“We will continue to assess room availability in the coming weeks to help where we can in this evolving situation,” the spokesperson said. “The University sees itself as being a part of the fabric of the city and we are always happy to use the resources at our disposal to help in times of difficulty.”

Image: kaysgeog

 

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The Student Newspaper 2016