Thursday 22 August 2019

Two more schools to close immediately amid concerns about structural issues

Tyrrelstown National School is closing
Photo: Google Maps
Tyrrelstown National School is closing Photo: Google Maps
St Luke's National school Photo: Google Maps
Ardgillan Community College. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Ardgillan Community College (inset text received by parents)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Two more schools are closing immediately because of concerns about structural issues.

The closures follow building inspections carried out today by a team appointed by the Department of Education.

The schools are Tyrrelstown Educate Together in west Dublin, built in 2011, and St Luke’s National School in the same locality, built in 2012.

Tyrrelstown Community Centre, which is on the same campus as the two primary schools, is also closing temporarily following the identification of structural issues in the schools.

St Luke's National school Photo: Google Maps
St Luke's National school Photo: Google Maps

A Department of Education spokesperson said: “The investigations at Tyrrelstown today, while not identifying any imminent danger, suggest that those two schools should close as a precautionary measure to allow for further detailed investigations at both schools.

“Following advice from a consultant structural engineer and in consultation with the school authorities a decision was taken to close both schools with immediate effect. 

It follows the closure of part of Ardgillan Community College, Balbriggan, Co Dublin since Monday for similar reasons.

Engineers found “significant structural issues” during an inspection in Ardgillan last Friday, relating to the placing of ties between the outer block work and the inner timber frame.

All three schools were built by the same firm, Co- Tyrone-based Western Building Systems (WBS), and after last Friday’s discoveries, the Department ordered structural checks on 30 schools built by WBS over the past decade.

The Department is working closely with the school authorities in Tyrrelstown in relation to interim accommodation solutions for the over 1,200 affected pupils. 

The target is to have interim accommodation solutions in place for when pupils return to school after the mid-term break next week.

“At all times the key priority of the Minister and the Department is the safety of pupils and staff,” the spokesperson said.

Education Minister Joe McHugh told the Dail today that a previously announced inspection of 30 schools built by WBS between 2009 and 2013, is being extended to 40 schools, covering the period up to 2018.

Mr McHugh also told the Dail that he met with Attorney General today and talked to him about future contracts for WBS.

The minister said, at a personal level, he could not stand over a situation that was emerging, where he claimed there were “no wall ties and wooden panels not bolted to steel girders; It is unacceptable”. He alleged that the lives of students, teachers and staff were put at risk.

WBS has defended its record and states that it wants to “get to the bottom of this”.

The company said in a statement that they are “responsible, solutions-focused professionals operating for 35 years.

“We place considerable emphasis on delivering high quality work on each of our projects, always ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. These include projects which had met the Department of Education’s compliance standards.

“We fully recognise that this is a very important matter, not least for the pupils, parents and teachers of the schools involved.

The company added that “until now, our integrity has never been questioned. Each of our Department of Education and Skills’ projects, both before and since the amendments to building regulations in 2014, were subjected to inspections during construction. Every time, each was certified as meeting compliance standards.”

WBS said it was “interested in getting to the bottom of this and that starts with establishing the facts. We are moving to intensify our engagement with the Department and other relevant bodies to better understand the issues which have now arisen and to work to resolve them.”

The statement added that WBS had “received some rather than all of the individual school fire audit reports. Of those we have received, we have responded with two exceptions which have only recently been issued to us.

“We are writing to the Minister for Education and Skills on the matter and remain available to meet with him and his officials.”

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