A special needs school in the western Estonian town of Haapsalu will be getting an upgrade thanks to state aid. The school, the Haapsalu Viigi kool, had until now been administered by the state, but it running will be handed over to local government.
The construction of the new building will be in Haapsalu town center, rather than at the existing school site, on Suur-Mere, close to the Väike Viik lagoon, and will cost an estimated €10 million.
The Viigi school in Haapsalu caters to students who face mobility, learning and other challenges, and works in close cooperation with a nearby neurological rehabilitation center.
Haapsalu city government has struck a deal with the Ministry of Education and Research, meaning constructing a new building, hampered also by continuing, high construction material prices, to enable the build to go ahead.
Indrek Riisaar, head of the ministry's state property management department, told ERR Thursday that: "This year, the initial task of establishing detailed plane and an architectural tender should go ahead."
"The issue will be discussed during the state budget and state budget strategy negotiations," he added.
These discussions are already ongoing, while the 2023 state budget bill is scheduled to go to the Riigikogu for voting at the end of next month.
Once the construction is completed, the new school building will boast new facilities, which make it easier for children to move around, Riisaar added, noting that this was the main raison d'etre for the new building.
Haapsalu mayor Urmas Sukles noted that attendance at the school had dwindled down the years thanks mainly to improved facilities at schools primarily serving the able-bodied and also due to more inclusive policies in education, while, conversely, the state has implemented stricter selection screening criteria for admission to the school.
Nonetheless, the agreement is being concluded, and while it is so far verbal, both the education ministry and the mayor made it clear the work would go ahead, while the school will also be handed over to local government's responsibility.
Sulkes said: "The verbal agreement is that the education ministry will build a new modern school building and the city of Haapsalu in cooperation with the [neighboring] Lääne-Nigula municipality will take over the running of the school within a few years."
The actual location of the new building, on the site of a former elementary school on Kuuse, in the town center, is the only viable location, Sukles added, notwithstanding that the main school site is around 2km away.
The nearby swimming pool and sports facilities were also a factor in favor of the new site, the mayor said.
Indrek Riisaar agreed that the site and local amenities were satisfactory.
Editor: Andrew Whyte