Monday 23 September 2019

Waiting's over for some but others have dreams dashed

Callum De Buitleir (7), Ross O Loinsigh (5), Daithi O Mathuna (7), Isabeil De Brun (7) and Seoilin Ni Liathain (8) from
Gaelscoil Bharra in Cabra, Dublin, look at the plans for their new school
Callum De Buitleir (7), Ross O Loinsigh (5), Daithi O Mathuna (7), Isabeil De Brun (7) and Seoilin Ni Liathain (8) from Gaelscoil Bharra in Cabra, Dublin, look at the plans for their new school

THE pupils of Gaelscoil Bharra will still have to wear their coats to school on a cold day. But, in the future, they can at least look forward to taking their coats off when sitting in the classroom.

A winter chill in the prefabs that have served as classrooms for 16 years at the 225-pupil, all-Irish school in Cabra, on Dublin's northside, means that coats are often worn throughout the day.

It can be just as difficult to regulate temperatures on a hot summer's day.

The new building will come too late for Tomas Byrne and the rest of the sixth class pupils as construction won't start until 2014.

But the school is celebrating its first written commitment to a date for construction work to begin.

It made an appearance on the Department of Education's 2012-16 school building list, announced this week.

The late TD Tony Gregory raised the issue in the Dail in 1999.

In 2000, a Department of Education inspector recommended a permanent school due to the "deplorable state of the temporary accommodation".

It has been a long road with many protests, and, famously, one that didn't happen.

Just before the 2002 election, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a local TD, asked the campaigners to abandon a planned protest on a promise that the school would be built.

They called off the march, but nothing happened. They later discovered, through a Freedom of Information request, that their application "fell through the cracks" in the department for almost five years.

It meant five more winters and summers for the pupils and teachers to endure.

But now Mossey Byrne, father of Tomas and chairperson for the parent-led committee for a permanent school, is putting all the disappointments behind him and says they are "absolutely delighted". Principal Sean O Donaile is equally thrilled. "It is a great day for Irish education on the northside of Dublin," he said.

Other concerns include the toilet facilities, which some children refuse to use.

Mr O Donaile has called for more transparency surrounding the school-building applications, which, he said, could "fall into a black hole in the department and you don't know if they will come out".

EXCLUDED

GLENVILLE National School is so damp that it has had to install a dehumidifier, which collects at least two litres of water every week from the atmosphere."It is switched on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help make the conditions more tolerable for pupils and staff. It could do with more, but the cost is prohibitive," says school principal Michael O'Donnell.

The principal, his teachers, pupils and their parents had plenty of reason to believe those days were nearing an end. The Department of Education itself had recommended a new school building and Mr O'Donnell was confident Glenville would feature on the list announced by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn this week.

But the rapidly growing and overcrowded school in Co Cork, originally built in 1955, didn't rate a mention among the 275 projects approved for construction up to 2016.

Glenville is back on a very long finger that could push construction of its badly needed new building down the line to 2017, or beyond.

As far back as 2006, the same department decided that the poor conditions at Glenville begged a new building, as an alternative to an extension then under discussion. Things were so bad at the time that toilets had been converted for use as a classroom. But progress remained slow.

"We were five years twiddling our thumbs," said Mr O'Donnell.

Then, in 2010, they got a letter telling them to proceed with plans for an eight-teacher school and a PE hall.

"The school's board has been actively engaging with a design team appointed and paid for by the department and will have an application for planning permission ready for department approval in April. I was practically certain that building would start by early 2013," said Mr O'Donnell.

A housing boom has seen pupil numbers at Glenville rocket in recent years: enrolments are up from 111 in 2005 to today's total of 152 and 163 are due in September.

The school outgrew its original two classrooms in the 1960s, when three "temporary" but still in use classrooms were added. Two prefabs have been brought in to cater for recent expansion

"Glenville has been on various lists since 2005," said Mr O'Donnell. "Now we have disappeared from any list whatsoever until after 2016."

Irish Independent

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