New school ready 37 days after fire
Pupils at Whitehouse Primary School will be back in class at the start of the new term despite the school being destroyed in an arson attack in July.
A Herculean effort has resulted in a new school being created in just 37 days - a few hundred yards away at Newtownabbey Community High School.
"This has been a remarkable achievement by all concerned," said Eilish Mallon, head of development and planning at the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
"Everybody has worked together in a spirit of co-operation - the principles of the two schools, teaching and support staff from both schools, the caretakers and cleaners, maintenance staff and the various contractors have all played a part - not forgetting the support of senior officials from the North Eastern Board and the Department of Education who have enabled the work to be completed in double quick time," she added.
By the start of term next week everything will be ready for a smooth opening for the 375 pupils.
"We have been able to commission rooms not used in Newtownabbey Community High, undertake painting and carpeting, fix up toilets, provide mobiles and access routes - all in a very short space of time by normal standards - only 37 days, " said Ms Mallon.
Teachers have given up the last few days of their holidays this week to go in and set up classrooms ready for lessons on September 1.
Whitehouse principal David McConkey expressed his thanks to everyone who had contributed to getting his school back in business in record time.
He said: "We are grateful to so many people. The whole school community and the general local community have been most supportive.
"This new accommodation will just be a temporary home for the school and we will see a start made this term on a completely new Whitehouse Primary School and Nursery Unit building on the site of the former school destroyed in the fire," he said.
The remains of the destroyed school building on the Doagh Road in Newtownabbey are in the process of being cleared away, so the future development of the site could be looked forward to with optimism, he said.
More than 70 firefighters tackled the blaze at the school which was discovered at 2.30am on July 18 and which, fanned by strong winds, destroyed more than 75% of the buildings.
It was the worst of a series of fires started by arsonists in the Greater Belfast area during July.