Saturday 19 October 2019

Two schools forced to close due to structural concerns to re-open

Safety: Scaffolding at Tyrellstown Educate Together National School. Tyrellstown, Dublin. Photo: Caroline Quinn.
Safety: Scaffolding at Tyrellstown Educate Together National School. Tyrellstown, Dublin. Photo: Caroline Quinn.
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Two primary schools forced to close this week because of concerns about structural safety will be able to re-open their ground floors after the mid-term break, the Department of Education said today.

The partial re-openings will allow about half the classrooms in Tyrrelstown Educate Together and St Luke’s National School to function and children with special needs will be prioritised.

Work on the necessary structural engineering solutions to allow for the ground floors to open will start on Monday.

The two schools have 1,200 pupils on their rolls, and work is underway with other schools to provide temporary accommodation for the remainder of the classes.

Meanwhile, Ardgillan Community College, Balbriggan, Co Dublin will be able to accommodate all pupils on Monday week, through the use of a community hall and some facilities in neighbouring schools.

The Department expects to provide information on a batch of schools inspected in recent days later today, or early tomorrow.

In all, 42 schools are being inspected for structural safety, and the programme is continuing over the weekend and next week.

Meanwhile, the dispute over responsibility for certifying three school buildings that have closed on safety grounds intensified today as the contractor claimed that the Department had a “right” to inspect before signing off.

Western Building Systems (WBS) also released the signed certificates of completion issued in respect of Ardgillan Community College, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, and Tyrrelstown Educate Together and St Luke’s National School in west Dublin.

The certificates were signed by representatives of project management companies, who acted in a client liaison capacity with the contractor on behalf of the Department.

“Attached are the three certificates as then provided, signed on behalf of the Minister of the day,” the company said in a statement.

It  added that “Department inspectors, on a fortnightly and monthly basis, had the right to inspect each project".

WBS said that “the compliance process which regulated the building of these schools included on-site inspections by Department appointed inspectors every two weeks, plus monthly on-site inspection meetings with the Department’s inspectors”.

It added that projects were only deemed concluded once a completion certificate was issued by the Department’s inspectors – as was the case in these schools.

The statement went on: “As per the contracts which governed these projects, schools are handed-over to the Department upon certified practical completion. For the 12-month period post completion, there is a responsibility on the contractor to remedy notified defects which the Department identifies for consideration under the contract.

“After completion of these matters, a further certificate of defects completion is issued to confirm all defects have been rectified on the snag list.

"The contract allows for the Department to retain a final payment until it is satisfied that the defects are remedied.

“Thereafter, for a period of up to 12 further years, the Department has a right of recourse as against the contractor for any latent defects. The contractor has a right to challenge this if it is the case that these do not form part of the contractual obligations."

The Department insists that the contractor and its design team, “were fully responsible for the construction and certification of the buildings in accordance with the regulations in force at the time”.

And two of the certificates released by WBS today, in relation to the west Dublin schools and signed Healy Kelly Turner & Townsend Project Management explicitly state:

“In issuing this Certificate of Substantial Completion, the Employer’s Representative is relying on, and shall have no liability in respect of, the appended Opinions of Compliance issued  by the Design and Build  Contractor and the Design and Build Contractor’s Team certifying  that the completed works have been properly carried out, in accordance with the Contract and fully comply with the current Building Regulations, Planning Permissions and Fire Safety Certificate”.

In response to the WBS statement, the Department said “the Certificate of Substantial Completion releases payments under the contract. It is not a certificate of compliance with the Building Control Regulations and should not be confused with such.”

The  Department statement added that "in order to provide further clarification on this point, the Department is now publishing the following certificates relating to Ardgillan Community College on its website at the following link: https://www.education.ie/en/School-Design/western-building-systems-information/

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