Ring in the new -- €5.5m school's opening is saved by the old bells
IT cost €5.5m to build, is brand new, and boasts state-of-the-art, light-filled classrooms.
But the first pupils entered St Mary's Parish Primary School in Drogheda, Co Louth, yesterday, to the familiar sound of a hand-rung school bell.
"Our electronic bell isn't working yet," explained principal Phillip Ward, who was surprisingly unruffled despite welcoming 49 staff and the first of the school's huge 988 pupil population.
The new school is an amalgamation of two other Drogheda schools -- Fatima Girls' National School and Congress Avenue Boys' School -- and yesterday's opening was the culmination of 16 years of work by both schools and the parish.
Staff and students from both schools have now moved to the biggest primary school in Ireland on a seven-acre site at Bryanstown, Drogheda.
Yesterday, staff had maps to guide them around the two-storey building and while a few parents had concerns about the scale of the building, all agreed it was superior to the buildings it replaced.
Mr Ward said: "Fatima was in a beautiful old building and was ahead of its time when it was built in 1858.
"But there was no car park for dropping off children and it had just three tiny yards -- we had to have a rule that the children could not run in the yard."
The new school has ample green spaces, an array of courts and pitches and a large car park. Teacher Aine Joyce, who worked in both former schools said: "This new environment will have a positive effect on the children and their learning."
The pupils were excited but for different reasons.
"I'm a bit excited and a bit nervous, because I've been in a boys' school most of my life," said Sean Savage (12). "I'm nervous about mixing with girls."
While her friends were excited about mixing with the boys, Megan McKenna (12) said: "The new school is lovely and clean and not old. I'm not afraid of this one falling down."