Forres Academy is being recommended as a priority project for replacement ahead of Buckie High School.
The schools are both below recommended standards with Forres judged to be one of only two schools in Scotland rated at the lowest level D for its condition.
Moray Council has put forward funding bids to the third phase of the Scottish Government Learning Estate Investment Programme to help fund new buildings for both.
However, the funding criteria requires local authorities to identify a project to take precedence if bids are made for more than one school.
A decision on application and choosing which secondary should take priority was supposed to be taken by councillors at a meeting on September 14.
But that was cancelled following the death of the Queen and rescheduled for September 28.
However, at the last minute it was felt the matter should not be debated in public for fear of influencing the outcome of a by-election in Buckie, which will take place on Thursday.
Members at that meeting voted by 14 to 10 to hold discussions in private.
The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Christopher Price in August.
All five candidates standing have given their backing for a new Buckie High.
While applications to the fund had to be submitted by the end of October, the council agreed with fund managers they would let them know their priority project following the by-election.
Forres Academy is in a worse state than Buckie High but only just.
It has a D standard for condition, which is the worst a school can be rated.
Buckie is deemed to be poor with a C mark, but as that assessment was done five years ago there are fears it could have fallen into the lowest category.
Both are below the minimum requirement of a double B mark for condition and suitability.
While Forres ranks as B in terms of the size and flexibility of classrooms for learning and teaching, Buckie has a C rating.
In his report programme manager for the learning estate Andy Hall said: “The criteria to prioritise the acceleration of one project over the other shows
that the differentiators between the Forres Academy and the Buckie High
School projects are small.
“However, it is the current and future condition comparison that is viewed as the key factor in favouring one project over another.
“The prioritisation of Forres Academy rather than Buckie High School would mitigate the operational and financial risks associated with a building that is condition D and, therefore, the priority option is recommended as Forres Academy. ”
While the coastal secondary can be built within its existing boundary, land will have to be bought to accommodate a new Forres Academy with Roysvale common good land the preferred choice.
If the bids are successful it could fund up to 50% of the costs of replacing the schools, but a completion date of December 2027 is a condition of the money being approved.
The price of building a three to 18 campus at Forres is put at £87.4m, with one at Buckie that would include a replacement swimming pool is expected to be £95.7m.
There are also options for secondary schools with community hubs costing £79.2m at Forres and £84.1m at Buckie.
The council has assigned £66m and £75m respectively to replace Forres and Buckie schools in its 10 year capital plan.
Regardless of any Scottish Government funding coming forward the council has a responsibility to bring schools up to a minimum of a B standard for both condition and suitability.
The report will be discussed at a meeting of the education, children’s and leisure services committee on Monday, November 7, before going to full council later in the day.