Belfast Telegraph

Mum's nightmare at closure of legionnaires' scare school

By Chris Kilpatrick

A mother whose son has severe learning difficulties has described the closure of his school for almost a month as a nightmare.

Hillcroft Special School in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, will re-open on today after it was closed due to the discovery of a bacterium which can cause legionnaires’ disease.

It shut from Friday, February 1 to allow tests to be carried out at the school which has 112 pupils with severe learning difficulties.

The bacteria was detected in a shower block which was not used by pupils or staff.

Initially, parents were told the school would re-open on Monday, February 11 but three days prior to this they were informed normal classes would resume on Monday, February 25. Yesterday, the North Eastern Education and Library Board announced pupils can return to Hillcroft this Monday.

Julie Jamieson, whose son Henry (11) is a pupil at the school, said the prolonged closure had proved difficult for parents.

Ms Jamieson — who has three older children and holds down a full-time job as a community health worker — took time off work and had to pay for additional childminding duties to look after her son.

“I got a telephone call about it on January 29 and I hoped the school would be opened again much sooner,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“It’s been a hard time for the parents and the staff. In fairness the staff have worked really hard to try and lessen the impact.

“Obviously the priority has been making the building safe to be in but it’s been a bit of a nightmare. It was hard for Henry as the children are very routine-focused.

“He can’t really do anything for himself and Hillcroft is a lifeline.”

Ms Jamieson said planned outdoor activities went ahead and work was sent home for pupils.

In addition, Henry availed of lessons at another special school in Jordanstown last week.

The North Eastern Education and Library Board apologised to parents for the disruption.

A spokeswoman said: “The board regrets the disruption... and is delighted to be in a position to re-open the school.”

She said a new water treatment dosing system has been put in place in tandem with a reviewed maintenance regime.

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“Obviously the priority has been making the building safe but it’s been a bit of a nightmare. It was hard for Henry as the children are very routine-focused. Henry can’t really do anything for himself and Hillcroft is a lifeline for him. He attends Hillcroft from 9am until 3pm, five days per week and loves school.”

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