Schools celebrate after 20-year wait for upgrade ends with new build plans
SCHOOLS waiting for up to 20 years for a decent home are among those celebrating the Department of Education's building programme for next year.
Almost 40 new primary- and post-primary schools will be built and many others will get extensions.
Overwhelmingly, the focus of the programme is on new schools to cater for the rise in enrolments in areas that have experienced a large rise in population in recent years.
Some projects will involve the replacement of old and dilapidated schools or the construction of permanent accommodation to replace pre-fabs.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has announced a total of 70 major school building projects – either new schools or extensions – at both primary- and post-primary level.
In one case, a Dublin primary school housed on the grounds of a GAA club is finally getting a permanent home.
By the time Gaelscoil Bharra in Cabra, Dublin, opens the doors of its new building in September 2015, it will have been waiting for 20 years.
The school has been operating out of Naomh Fionnbarra GAA Club and principal Sean O Donghaile said he was "delighted" that its campaign was over.
And, at an overcrowded primary school in Co Kerry, a 17-year campaign for a new building also comes to an end.
Blennerville Primary School, outside Tralee, submitted an application for a new building in 1996.
The 70 projects listed for construction are 22 new schools and 12 extensions at primary level, 12 new schools and 20 extensions at second-level and three new special schools and one extension.
Overall, they will deliver over 27,500 permanent school places, of which about 21,000 will cater for rising enrolments.
Mr Quinn said his "primary aim is to ensure that every child growing up in Ireland can access a place in a classroom when they go to school".
Together with the school projects already announced in July and other ongoing projects from 2013, it means that a total of 168 major school projects will be on site next year.
In addition, Mr Quinn said that a total of 44 major school projects had now reached substantial completion in 2013.
As the population boom that started in the late 1990s works its way through the education system, enrolments at second-level will continue to grow up to at least 2024.
Mr Quinn said €470m would be spent on primary- and post-primary infrastructure next year, with a projected expenditure on large-scale projects of over €320m.
Total enrolment in both primary- and post-primary schools is expected to grow by over 70,000 between now and 2017 – over 45,000 at primary 25,000 at post-primary.
It will be a boost for the construction industry and will support 3,200 direct jobs and 640 indirect jobs in 2014.
It is part of a €2bn five-year capital investment programme, launched March 2012 covering 275 new major school building projects to begin up to 2016.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) welcomed the announcement but called on the department to ringfence 7.5pc of all future capital funding for the maintenance of existing buildings.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said it did not make economic sense to build new schools and extensions while at the same time allowing others to deteriorate.