Copleston rises from the ashes

AN AMBITIOUS target has been set to build a modern replacement for the fire-ravaged block at Copleston High School by September 2007.It is only seven weeks since a ferocious blaze ripped through parts of the north east Ipswich school, devastating staff and administration facilities, classrooms and science labs.

AN AMBITIOUS target has been set to build a modern replacement for the fire-ravaged block at Copleston High School by September 2007.

It is only seven weeks since a ferocious blaze ripped through parts of the north east Ipswich school, devastating staff and administration facilities, classrooms and science labs.

The dank odour of the charred walls continues to permeate through the halls, serving as a constant reminder of the destruction the fire caused late on August 27.

But as the school prepares to welcome prospective year six students and their parents to an open evening tonight, headteacher Laurie Robinson spoke of his determination to rebuild as quickly as possible.

Mr Robinson said discussions were already ongoing with architects and engineers with the aim of producing a structure fit for the 21st century.

And he estimated that the final cost of the fire could reach £1million.

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“The early discussions have been very exciting,” he said. “There's an awareness that this development needs to be in harmony with the long-term plans for the re-engineering of the whole of the school.

“The proposal includes improved student social and toilet facilities, increased computer provision, upgrading to three of our science labs, modern professional facilities for the staff and increased accommodation for the admin function of the school.

“This is what we are proposing, but there's no guarantee it's what will be the finished product.

“I have set the challenge to have it ready for September 1 - but it's a big challenge.”

It is likely that the new structure will be built around the ground floor of the worst hit area, which has been deemed structurally safe by engineers.

Improvements already carried out at Copleston include the installation of a stairlift to replace the damaged lift, while fresh paint is being applied throughout to cover the singed school walls.

However, one facility which may not be replaced is the school bell.

Mr Robinson said: “The general feeling is that we prefer it without the bells and we wonder if we will have them again.

“We think the school has a calmer atmosphere and there is a staggering effect of pupils leaving class which helps with the flow.

“And there has been no lack on punctuality.”

TONIGHT'S open evening will feature a string quartet who will play in the open air from the area worst-hit by the fire.

The music will come from the first floor of the art deco staff room, with images of the blaze projected on to an adjoining wall.

More than 400 pupils and parents are expected to flock to the school tonight for the evening, which takes place between 6pm and 8.30pm.

Mr Robinson said: “The idea is to illustrate the positive spirit among pupils and staff to deal with the fire and move forward.

“On a day-to-day basis, everything has returned to normal.”

What do you think of Copleston's recovery? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINK: www.copleston.suffolk.sch.uk

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