A proud headteacher has issued a heartfelt ‘thank-you’ to parents, staff and pupils after his school was decimated with £500,000 of flooding damage.
READ MORE: Flooding causing chaos across county
Anchorsholme Academy was deluged with record floodwater a week last Wednesday which devastated classrooms, damaged equipment and left staff in tears.
It has been closed since - but is now set to reopen today after a huge effort to repair the damage.
More than 600 pupils will return to the Eastpines Drive school after carpets were relaid, classrooms cleared and all three boilers repaired after they were submerged in four feet of water.
Headteacher Graeme Dow said: “When I came in early that Thursday morning almost every classroom was under to two to four inches of water.
Our three boilers were under four foot of water and they were out of action.
“Every carpet in school was sodden to the core.
“We cried, I don’t mind admitting it.
“It has been devastating.
“But the staff and the parents have been phenomenal - I want to thank each and every one of them for their help and patience.
“It’s been hard work but the school is fit to reopen now after a monumental effort.
“In the long run it will probably cost upwards of £500,000 to put right but the measures that have been put in place mean we can get the school back open and welcome pupils back.”
Up to 55mm of rain fell in one night across parts of the Fylde coast last Wednesday as relentless downpours left homes flooded and roads impassable.
Mr Dow said he woke at 6am on the Thursday morning to messages that the school had been badly hit by the flood waters.
He said: “We had parents in on the Wednesday night and as they were coming in they were pretty wet so the rain was significant.
“There was a puddle that developed outside the front door but it wasn’t a major concern.
“But then it rained and rained and rained that night.
“I got up at 6am the next morning and I had three missed calls from the site supervisor. I said to him ‘I take it we are flooded?’ And flooded we were.
“Every classroom except the Year 6 class, as that is on a bit of a rise, was under two to four inches of water.
“I’d say there was standing water in about 40 per cent of the school at 7am.
“Staff rolled their sleeves up, their trouser legs up and started bailing out the water.
“One of the sad things is we have just had the lovely new entrance opened two weeks ago and that was flooded.
“The loss adjustors arrived and did a walk around school and by 8am on the Friday they started ripping up the carpets and that continued over the weekend.
“We will need to replace around 1,000sqm of carpet by the time it is all done.
“We have had some temporary carpets laid which now at least allows us to have the children in.
“Some chairs and tables will need replacing, electrical equipment, soft furnishings and all the carpets.
“Our three boilers were under four foot of water and they were out of action.
“It took until Wednesday to get them repaired and it was freezing in school as the temperatures dropped.
“I’ve not slept since it happened because of the impact it has had on our pupils and their families. We all appreciate it has been an absolute nightmare for them.”
Traders have been in since the damage repairing all the damaged electrics, flooring and every area that has been water damaged.
And while the school is now ready to welcome back pupils, it could take several months for it to be back to normal.
Graeme added: “We’ve had all the environment sweeps and that has come back fine but it could take three to six months to get everything back as it was.
“You don’t know how bad the damage is underneath and whether it has set into the walls.
“It’s a big task for the next three months to dry it out as deeply as possible.”
The school was due to reopen today – and Mr Dow admits they will need the school’s self-belief to drive them through to Christmas
He said: “We like to call ourselves the A-team for Anchorsholme but that’s exactly what it’s been like.
“They have pulled together as a team and got through the challenge.
“The two weeks up to Christmas are going to be a challenge but we’re up for it and we’ll be back to normal soon enough.”
‘Everyone was so amazing’
“The staff were just amazing. Since they arrived on Thursday morning they have just got on with the job and mucked in.
“They have worked hard to salvage what they can and move things to other places.
“They have had to throw things away that are dear to them and making lists of what will need replacing.
“They are constantly having to move things around.
“They have been unbelievable and I am proud of them all.
“I actually had two emails from headteachers of schools in Hebden Bridge sending their best wishes as they have been through what we have. That was a nice touch.
“Staff have volunteered to go and work in other schools to help them.”
“And the parents - I cannot thank them enough. We’ve had emails of support, Facebook pages set up to help us and they have had to arrange childcare at such short notice which is no easy task.
“People have been talking about crowdfunding for the school and while we are extremely touched we are covered by insurance so should be OK.
“I went to my own child’s parents evening the other night and I had four parents come up to me to say they were feeling for us. The support has been incredible.
“But you have just got to get on with it.
“Our website is full of ideas to do work at home and the children were all well prepared.
“We’ve got some lost learning to catch up on and the staff have been assessing the curriculum for the rest of this term.
“Some of the children have already shown an interest in doing projects on the flooding and the impact it has had on them and the school so it’s generated some interest and enthusiasm among them.”
HAS IT HAPPENED BEFORE - AND COULD IT AGAIN?
“It was flooded 17 years ago but that was due to the sewage pumping station failing. This was just rain water. It was a colossal amount of water that this area could not cope with.
“We’ve lost a lot of green space around this area of Blackpool with all the housing developments so that may be a factor but who knows.”