Students of Coláiste Pobail Naomh Mhuire in Buttevant, Co Cork, have been told work should begin on their new school building early next year.
After a campaign to retain second-level education that began before most of the current classes were born, the state-of-the-art facility is among 70 major building projects chosen to go ahead in the Department of Education 2014 schools capital programme.
After the Mercy order of nuns decided in the late 1990s to pull out of education in the north Cork town where they first began teaching over a century earlier, Co Cork VEC (now Cork Education and Training Board) took over the school as a community college. Local councillor Tom Sheahan, who has chaired the local education committee, said the turnaround shows the community’s dedication to keeping a second-level school in the town.
For principal Donal O’Sullivan, work on a greenfield site at the other end of town to the existing school means a bright future for a student population that has grown over the last decade from around 170 to 230.
Although planning permission for the new building — with capacity for 330 students — has been in place since early this year and contractors are to be selected soon, he said the department’s approval is hugely important after plenty of letdowns in the past.
“We hope to have diggers on the site by February and the work should be completed in 11 months,” he said. “The specifications of the campus ensure the classrooms, workshops, sports facilities and technologies will be among the most modern in the country — it even contains a fitness suite.”
Just over half of the 34 primary, 32 second-level, and four special schools listed yesterday will see work start next year on new buildings, with the rest undergoing major extensions. The projects are part of Education Minister Ruairí Quinn’s €470m spend in 2014 on schools infrastructure, for which €320m is for large-scale projects, including those announced yesterday and another 70 where work is already under way.
Mr Quinn said the latest projects will provide more than 27,500 permanent places, of which more than 21,000 cater for rising local populations and the rest will replace temporary or unsatisfactory accommodation.
He said: “Despite our economic difficulties, we have a pressing need to provide new schools and major extensions to continue to meet the accommodation requirements of our growing school going population. This significant investment will support 3,200 direct jobs and 640 indirect jobs in 2014.”
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said it was further good news after Mr Quinn recently reinstated schemes for routine maintenance and major repairs. The union called on him to ring-fence 7.5% of future capital funding for maintenance, saying it did not make economic sense to build new schools and extensions but allow others to deteriorate.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved