Pupils take top billing in new school opened in former Cork film centre

It is understood the Department of Education is still pursuing a permanent site for the school which has the Catholic Le Chéile Schools Trust as its patron
Pupils take top billing in new school opened in former Cork film centre

(Left to right) Staff members Aoife Barry-Murphy, Peter Cregan, Nicola Barrett, Principal, Adam Kelly, Kate McCarthy, Cillian Brennan, Kelly O'Neill and Stephanie Coffey at the opening day of Le Chéile Secondary School, Ballincollig, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

The first intake of students were the stars of the show as a new secondary school opened in a former film centre in Cork.

A total of 21 first years, from all over the city, as well as some from Canada and Kuwait, made their own little bit of history as they became the first students of Le Chéile Ballincollig, which opened its doors for the first time in the former Cork Film Centre building in the town.

 First year students on the opening day of Le Chéile Secondary School, Ballincollig, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
First year students on the opening day of Le Chéile Secondary School, Ballincollig, Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Principal, Nicola Barrett, said after all the planning and preparation, she and the staff of seven teachers were delighted to finally welcome their first students.

“We told the students that if they are happy in school, everything else will fall into place,” she said.

“For the week ahead, it will be induction only, with a focus on staff and students, because we as staff are all in the same position the students are in.

 Kate Maguire with her parents Ruth and Michael at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan
Kate Maguire with her parents Ruth and Michael at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan

“We only met each other for the first time last Thursday.

“So we’ll spend the next few days getting to know each other. We also plan to bury a time capsule, with messages from the students on their hopes and dreams, and then open it in six years.” 

The school is based in a building that was previously a visitor and heritage centre associated with the town’s massive Royal Gunpowder Mills complex. The building, which was in the ownership of Cork County Council, operated as a visitor centre during the 1990s but subsequently closed.

 First year pupil Kayleigh Ryan with her sister Leah and mum Louise at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan
First year pupil Kayleigh Ryan with her sister Leah and mum Louise at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan

It was refurbished and reopened in 2012 as a hub for filmmakers, and as a base for the Cork Film Centre and the Cork Screen Commission. But it closed again a few years later and remained closed. 

Its ownership was transferred to Cork City Council following the 2019 city boundary extension.

 First year pupil Catríona Knapp with with her parents Grainne and Steve at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan
First year pupil Catríona Knapp with with her parents Grainne and Steve at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan

When it was announced last year that the Le Cheile Trust had been granted the patronage of a new 1,000-pupil co-ed secondary school to open in the town, it was initially planned to develop temporary accommodation on the grounds of the nearby GAA club but approaches were made to the city council which led to the building becoming a school.

Ms Barrett paid tribute to Pat Kinsella, who identified its potential use as the school.

 Mia Cymerkiewicz with her dog Pepsi at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan
Mia Cymerkiewicz with her dog Pepsi at the opening day. Picture: Dan Linehan

It is understood the Department of Education is still pursuing a permanent site for the school, and that the issue is being addressed as part of the drafting of the new city development plan.

The Catholic Le Chéile Schools Trust is already the trustee of three schools in Cork – St Angela’s College, St Aloysius’ College, Carrigtwohill, and the Ursuline College in Blackrock.

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