CONSTRUCTION of a new Portobello High School has been “topped out” – marking an important milestone in the controversial £41.5 million development.
Set to become the city’s largest secondary with space for 1400 pupils, the school, which is being built in Portobello Park, will boast a swimming pool and two all-weather pitches.
Staff said this would enable core physical education classes to be provided on site, rather than have pupils bussed to different premises as currently happens.
Locals will also be able to book pitches free of charge as one of the measures put in place to compensate for the loss of the park.
Retiring headteacher Peigi Macarthur was joined by Councillor Paul Godzik, city education leader, and Hector MacAulay, managing director of builders Balfour Beatty, which is building the new school.
Mrs Macarthur, who laid the final piece of concrete during yesterday’s ceremony, said: “It was a lovely surprise to be asked to carry out the topping out today.
“There have been lots of highs and lows in my 35-year career in education and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as headteacher of Portobello High School, but the time is now right for me to hand over the reins as a new and exciting chapter begins in the school’s history.”
Topping out of the new school comes after construction was delayed by an upheld legal challenge from members of Portobello Park Action Group.
The city council was then forced to lodge a private Bill at the Scottish Parliament to allow education-related development on the land.
Work eventually began on the site in October last year – six years after the school, which has a current roll of around 1300 pupils, was first approved.
Cllr Godzik said: “[Topping out] is a key stage in the Portobello project and an exciting day for everyone involved.
“Many people in the local area will be delighted to see the excellent progress being made on site as the school finally takes shape after so many years of uncertainty.
“What we’ve seen as architectural images are now coming to life and already it is clear it is going to be a fantastic, state-of-the-art building.
“Having Peigi top out the building is a fitting tribute after the key role she has played in the project and a lovely way to mark her retirement.”
Cllr Godzik added: “Rebuilding Portobello High School is one of the Capital Coalition’s highest priorities and we were determined to ensure we met this commitment.
“The building is on schedule and I look forward to seeing the new school, which will open its doors to pupils in summer 2016.”
Mr MacAulay, Balfour Beatty regional managing director for Eastern Scotland, said work on the school was progressing well.
He said: “Portobello High School is going to provide a state-of-the-art learning platform for future generations in the city and it is great to see some of the current students here to mark this milestone as we reach the highest point in the construction of this fantastic new facility.”