Police action at vandalism blighted Wick school was 'inevitable'
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The chair of Wick High School's Parent Council felt that yesterday's police action to remove youngsters from a vandalism blighted part of the former school was "inevitable".
Close to 6pm police officers were observed forcing entry to the former Wick High School (WHS) technical block to remove several teenagers who had gained access to the empty building.
After receiving reports that children were seen within the disused property, four officers attempted to locate them and were heard smashing through barricaded doors on the old technical block.
Highland Council had previously tried to seal off all access to points to the buildings as a precaution against vandalism but a youngster who observed yesterday's event said that kids were still able to get inside without much problem.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "Officers attended at West Banks Avenue in Wick at 5.35pm on Sunday, May 16, after reports youths were in a building. Three youths were traced, given a verbal warning and taken home."
WHS Parent Council chairperson, Professor Iain Baikie, said: “It is so sad to learn that kids, including young teens, have broken into and vandalised the old school – probably as a consequence of the opening of the adjacent new fenced-in path.
"If these are school-aged children then the council needs to investigate if their parents are aware of the vandalism and take active steps to seek a change in their behaviour. Parents will want ongoing reassurances that older youths will not be lingering in an area adjacent to the main school pedestrian entrance."
Prof Baikie feels that yesterday’s police action was widely predictable and a consequence of a new "campus boulevard" walkway being opened recently that runs by the old school.
"The Parent Council anticipated and communicated to the council that the windows of the old school would be used as target practise and the grounds would be broken into. So it proved. When I inspected the fenced-in path for the first time I could see the curtains billowing in the old chemistry labs as the outside panes of glass were shattered."
He said that within days of the new campus route being opened he received reports of children on the roof of the old WHS complex. Prof Baikie informed council officials of the matter, including Brian Porter, head of resources, but claims to have received no replies.
"If anyone gets hurt in the old school building, they may have a claim on the council as it was not made safe," he added.
The parent council chair said that local representatives on the East Caithness Community Campus (ECCC) stakeholders group had pointed out potential problems "many times over several years" and pushed for the council to "consider and support a future use" for parts of the old school.
"We were ignored. Our concerns about the old school being broken into were ignored and our ongoing efforts to secure access to the athletic pitch are ignored. The last time the kids had access to their sports field was 2013.
"This is a council with absolutely no ambition for the pupils of Wick High School. It does not seek to address critical problems of behaviour in some pupils. To my mind, this is a council happy to stick up two fingers to the people of Wick."
Prof Baikie said that the new ECCC boulevard was originally billed as the "main pedestrian and cycle access route" and was designed to have a wide aspect and capacity to handle over 1000 pupils, cyclists and local people accessing the campus.
"It does none of these well. Several years late and after numerous reminders from the parent council, the fenced-in path opened to absolutely no fanfare. The council lacked the common sense to clear up the spoil and litter from the adjacent old school."
Highland Council said that the old school buildings were previously put up for sale but no offers had been forthcoming. After consulting with local members, it agreed to put the property up for auction but that was postponed due to "Covid restrictions and adjacent construction work".
With the easing of restrictions the council confirmed that the former WHS buildings will be put up for auction again.