EIGHTY-three East Kilbride school staff were this week caught up in the travel chaos caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano.
The 73 teachers and 10 support staff had been due to return to work on Monday following the Easter holidays.
But they were among the many townsfolk who have been left stranded overseas by the clouds of volcanic dust that closed airspace across Europe.
A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said supply teachers had been drafted to ensure classes go ahead as usual.
She added: “Like the rest of the country we have some disruption concerning pupils and teachers making it back for the start of the new school term.
“The position in South Lanarkshire schools today is that 242 teachers (6.7 per cent) and 14 support staff are currently stranded abroad.
“Schools remain open for pupils and the council and head teachers are adapting and coping well with this very unusual situation.
“We will continue to monitor the situation the same as we have for other contingency type events like swine flu so that we are able to respond to the needs of our schools.”
Others caught up in the travel chaos included East Kilbride students Nicola Leitch and Kirstin Walker.
They had been due to fly home last Thursday but have been told it could be next Friday, April 30, before they will be able to get a flight home.
Nicola, 21, and Kirsten, 24, who had been visiting friends in Kansas, last week travelled to Orlando, Florida, to discover that their return flight home had been cancelled.
Nicola, from Greenhills, told the News: “We hadn’t heard about the volcano and got a confirmation e-mail from American Airlines a few hours before our flight. We travelled to the airport only to find we couldn’t get home.
“The airline was so unhelpful and could only book us on a flight on April 22, a full week later. They told us they couldn’t do anything else for us and we would have to sort our own accomodation or sleep in the airport for a week.
“We were reduced to tears in the airport and luckily a British couple approached us and said we could stay with them at their holiday home for a few days as we had no money and didn’t know what to do.
“We are in the middle of nowhere sleeping on an airbed and are really worrying about coursework we need to hand in and exams we have coming up as we don’t have any of it with us.”
The pair, who are in their final year at university, are now travelling to Chicago airport in the hope flights will resume and they can get home soon.
Nicola added: “If the flights don’t resume we will end up sleeping in Chicago Airport.
“It is a nightmare and the airline don’t care that we are two young girls stranded abroad so won’t give us any sort of priority. They operate a first come, first served policy.
“Many of our friends think it is just an extended holiday for us but having no money and being stuck in a strange place not knowing what is happening is not much of a holiday.
“We are really concerned about our course work and just want to get home as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, staff at East Kilbride’s SEPA site have been busy analysing dust samples to measure the effect the dust will have on the environment and it appears to be good news.
The sample collected at East Kilbride was examined by microscope and found to contain glassy, angular particles which were identified as 'new silica' ie sharp, bright and clear as opposed to smooth and opaque.
This is typical of volcanic material.
SEPA's director of science and strategy, Professor James Curran, said: “The greatest environmental concern from volcanic ash, and the most significant risk to grazing livestock, would be fluoride content in ash deposits.
“Information from SEPA's analysis of Scottish dust samples, and from similar analysis in Norway, indicates low levels of fluoride in the current Icelandic ash plume.
“We think, on the basis of the expected deposition patterns and the nature of the ash, that there is a minimal risk to the environment.”