Five schools to delay start of new term as mediation works are yet to be completed

Five schools to delay start of new term as mediation works are yet to be completed
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As many as five schools constructed by Western Building Systems face a delay to beginning the new term because of mediation works not being completed in time.

The Department of Education has also said the independent review of the school building and procurement programme would be completed - and ideally published - before the end of this year.

It has emerged that other schools, including in Portarlington in Co Laois and in Ratoath in Co Meath, face late delays in opening up for the new school year, joining Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin in Clonakilty in Co Cork, which has had to delay its re-opening for three days next week.

A spokesman for the department said in most cases the delays would be for one day.

The rescheduled openings are due to delays in completing remediation works at the schools, which are among those constructed by Western Building Systems and which have left children and staff waiting to begin the new term and have, in many cases, left parents with unexpected childcare issues.

A total of 42 schools are currently in the remediation programme, which in many cases has resulted in buildings being encased in scaffolding while engineers ensure they are safe and compliant with fire safety regulations.

The first cases brought by the Department of Education against WBS in relation to fire safety issues are due to be herd in the commercial court from this October, while the Department said it hopes the independent review of the school building and procurement programme would be completed and published before the end of this year.

In the case of Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin, its principal Pádraig Ó hEachthairn made swift contact with parents of current and new pupils to say there had been a "change of plans" regarding the handing over the school from the companies involved in remediation works.

He said he had been told in "no uncertain terms" that there was no possibility of the school opening as scheduled next Tuesday and added: "I would like to apologise for all the inconvenience this will cause to you, a fact I have conveyed to the various bodies involved."

A spokesperson for Cairde na Scoile, the parents representative body at the school, said school authorities had been upfront at all times in communicating with families and that, regarding the delayed start to term, "for working parents, it's a nightmare".

The spokesperson said that in addition to the delay for new and current pupils in getting the new term underway, parents now faced covering and extra three days of childcare.

It is very inconvenient. "We were all prepared for our children to be going back on Tuesday.

The parents body said the school had acted correctly at all times and that any unhappiness was directed at the department. The spokesperson also queried whether the school would have to make up the three days missed at the start of the year at other times before next summer or whether it would be considered as force majeure.

The affected schools are likely to face works well into 2020. The Department said that fire safety works would continue during the year at some schools, with some permanent remediation recommencing next summer.

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