After a campaign that has spanned over two decades, children at a Co Kerry school have finally moved into their new building.
The campaign to build a new national school in Blennerville started back in 1996, but parents of children who attend the village school, on the outskirts of Tralee, are no strangers to protest.
Back in January 1961, they pulled their children out of the primary school because of poor toilet conditions.
Principal Terry O’Sullivan said they had decided to host an open day on Wednesday to let parents and the local community have a peek inside the new facilities, and to allow for a ‘normal’ school day for the first day back.
But there was nothing ‘normal’ about the day for the 150 pupils, who are still getting used to their new environment — a spacious two-storey building with six mainstream classrooms, three special-needs rooms, a sports hall, library, computer room and pre-school.
It’s a sharp contrast from the cramped, damp conditions of the old school that had served the community since the 1930s, but in the past few years had required three prefabs in the yard to accommodate numbers.
At the end of this month, the old school house will be demolished.
“Blennerville has always been a popular school because of the standard of the teaching, but our facilities were holding us back,” said Mr O’Sullivan, a teaching principal leading a staff of 14.
Parent Brendan O’Donoghue, who is on the board of management, says they’re confident the ethos of the old school will transfer to the new building.
“We’re delighted with the end product, it was definitely worth the wait.”
His daughter Sorcha, 11, who is in fifth class, is glad she’ll get to enjoy her last year and a half in primary school. “It’s amazing. We’ve lots of new facilities. The old school was good but it was very small and we didn’t have a lot of space.”
Blennerville National School has moved three times in the past century and a half. The original school served the community from the mid-1830s until the now vacant school opened in 1932.
The site was bought from local businessman Jimmy O’Shea, whose father donated the previous site.
The Daly family has the distinction of three generations having attended each of the schools. Seán Daly was part of a local group that published the history of the school and community in November. His mother Mary attended the original school and today his sons, Rory and James, are enrolled in the new school.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved