THE Black Valley National School will close within 12 months unless pupil numbers at the rural two- teacher school drastically increase in the coming weeks.
The Department of Education and Skills bases its annual teacher numbers on the number of pupils enrolled by September 30 each year - currently there are six pupils at the school and two of these are due to return to the US soon.
With the department's pupil/teacher ratio set at eight pupils for a one-teacher school and 17 pupils for schools to retain two teachers, current numbers mean the school faces closure at the end of the current school year.
Last year 24 pupils were enrolled at the school and the sudden decline has raised major concerns locally. A bus operated by former principal Maureen Finnegan which left daily from Kenmare had helped to inflate numbers but the service ended after new principal Julie O'Sullivan came on board.
While this is a factor in the decline, parents state that there are other issues at play.
Approximately ten families have taken their children out of the Black Valley School and enrolled in neighbouring schools such as Cullina NS, Kenmare NS and Tahilla NS.
The HSE, meanwhile, has confirmed that it is conducting a review of the matter.
"The HSE has linkages with all schools regarding child welfare issues and there are processes in place for referral to relevant services as required," a HSE spokesperson stated.
During the summer months the school's board of management was replaced by a single manager, Seamus Long, who said he was working on behalf of its patron, Bishop Bill Murphy, to address a number of issues concerning the school.
"All of the issues are being addressed through the use of the appropriate policies and procedures. It is not helpful at this time to engage in public debate over the specific issues, however, it must be acknowledged that the decline in school numbers is an obvious concern," he stated.
The Department of Education said it did not comment on individual cases as they are a matter for boards of management.