Volunteers tackle school repairs after fund cancelled

GERRY Clerkin should be looking forward to the start of work on the €600,000 replacement of dozens of windows at St Patrick’s National School in a few weeks.

Instead, the principal has had to rope in 20 staff and volunteer parents to repaint the 30-year-old windows, which pupils will have to sit under for another winter because of the cancellation of the Summer Works Scheme.

The school’s 480 pupils are taught in two buildings on the grounds of St Patrick’s teacher training college in Drumcondra on Dublin’s northside. The aluminium window casings are set in teak frames but the glass is just four millimetres thick, and is liable to smash into tiny dangerous shards if broken.

With this safety concern in mind, the school spent €4,000 to get their architect to help file an Summer Works Scheme application last September. But the announcement in December’s spending estimates by the Department of Education that the grants scheme was not going ahead put a dent in these plans.

“There have been a few minor breaks in the windows over the years, but we really wanted to rule out the risk that someone might be hurt. Having double-glazed windows would also help us significantly reduce our heating bill for the year,” said Mr Clerkin.

With an estimate of €11,000 from a contractor to paint the dozens of teak window and door frames around the school, parents decided this week that they would help out and save the expense.

“Our parents’ association has been fantastic, they’ve raised €60,000 for the school’s contribution towards the works. But the money we spent on the architect’s report would have been very helpful for us to provide teaching and classroom equipment for our pupils instead of being wasted on an application that wasn’t even opened,” said Mr Clerkin.

The staff and parents of another Dublin primary school are equally angry about the situation, having spent €3,200 on an application for funding to upgrade the toilets.

“It’s a scandal that schools which have very little resources anyway have spent all this money to apply for a grant that’s not being paid,” said Matt Hume, principal of St Joseph’s Boys School in Terenure.

“We have 26 toilets for pupils, two off each classroom, but the floors and walls are damp and the bad smells are getting into the classes. The summer works grant would have allowed us to replace the partitions and tile the floors but we’ll have to wait at least another year now,” he said.

Local parents have raised about €35,000 a year for the school and Mr Hume said the money for the grant application could have been used for computer software, to buy library books or other important educational resources.

“The underfunding of our schools means we have to rely on parents for all these things, when they should be provided by the Government,” he said.

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