Why won’t they fund our school?

AGHINA National School applied for refurbishment and an additional classroom in 1996. After inspecting the school, department officials state that the only viable option was to construct a new school building.

This was for financial reasons and to conform to Department of Education and Science standards. In 1998 Micheál Martin, then-Minister for Education and Science, granted the new school and the process began.

The site was purchased, planning permission received and a tender recommended.

Minister Noel Dempsey in a spirit of 'openness and transparency' put us on his 2003 building list of schools to proceed to construction in 2003. He had two conditions: one being the reduction of costs, the other being the issue of enrolment.

On the issue of costs, we would like to point out the following.

The new structure granted was a basic, standard two-teacher school as per department guidelines no more, no less. The recommended tender came in well under budget. The department allocated €729,000 towards the new school building, the tender came in at €610,000, a saving of €119,000.

On the issue of enrolment, we provided detailed demographics of births within the area.

The department has stated in writing that enrolment is no longer an issue and accepts that our enrolment would increase with the new school.

We were invited to a meeting in Tullamore on December 17, 2003, the very same day Mr Dempsey published his 'open and transparent' 2004 building list. Imagine our surprise to learn we had been put on a list to be offered a devolved grant.

When we expressed dismay at this about-turn, Tom Kavanagh, the department official in attendance asked to come to see the school first hand. He and another official visited two days later. A report compiled on the day and seen by us under the Freedom of Information act estimates the cost of renovation and the building of two additional classrooms at €531,000 and would still not satisfy department guidelines.

The report recommends the building of a new school on the site adjacent to the existing school exactly the same as the recommendation made in 1996.

Three months later, on March 16, 2004, Tom Kavanagh on behalf of the department offers the school an all-in grant of €250,000.

How is €250,000 supposed to build a new school? The department has its guidelines and its standards but they don't seem to apply to Aghina National School. How are we to bring our school up to department standards with one third of the amount the department itself had allocated first day?

Is it not time for Mr Dempsey and his department honour the 'open and transparent' commitment given to the children of Aghina NS and the community of Macroom? Are we just another election statistic?

Diarmuid Ó Céilleachair, Principal, Josephine Cronin, Chairperson, Parents' Association,

Aghina National School,

Caum,

Macroom,

Co Cork.

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