Wednesday 16 January 2019

Gaelscoil 'moves on' after recent fire at weekend

Cllr Jennifer Whitmore.
Cllr Jennifer Whitmore.
Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath.

Mary Fogarty

There are calls for outstanding fire safety works at Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath to be carried out immediately after a recent fire at the school burned itself out before it was discovered.

The fire took place in a computer storage room at the school over the weekend of Storm Emma, when much of County Wicklow was battling the heavy snowfall.

While there was no response to the alarm, principal Rita Ní Thuathail said that the alarm system was functioning.

There were some concerns from parents in the aftermath of the fire that there were still fumes in the school.

Ms Ní Thuathail said that the issues were addressed at a meeting last week attended by parents. 'We have moved on and are now preparing for Seachtain na Gaeilge,' she said.

She added that the fire safety works under way at the school are separate to that.

A parent said that they were told that contractors have been at the Greystones school to deal with damage to and clear-up of the computer room and adjoining classrooms.

'There was a concern last week that children shouldn't have been sitting in those rooms,' the parent said.

Meanwhile, Cllr Jennifer Whitmore said that the Department of Education is dragging its feet over fire safety upgrades at the school.

'There are particularly concerns that fire safety upgrades required as part of a report published by the Department of Education in September 2017 still have not been completed,' she said.

'It is pure luck that the fire happened over the weekend, when there were no children on site when there could have been more serious consequences.

'The Minister stated in October 2017, in response to a parliamentary question from my party colleague Róisín Shortall TD, that works would be completed in March 2018.

'However, the latest update from the school provided to parents indicates that it will be September 2018 before the works are done.'

She said that even simple works, such as the installation of illuminated fire safety signs have yet to be completed.

'What's more unbelievable is that the Department was aware as far back as 2015 that there were fire safety issues with this school,' she said.

'It is absolutely outrageous that these works have yet to be finished and that children's lives are being put at risk. This recent fire is a wake-up call that the Minister can no longer ignore.

'The fire safety works at Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath must be undertaken immediately, and the Minister needs to end this foot dragging and ensure that all resources necessary are put to ensuring that this happens.'

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said that the fire safety works are continuing at Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath and involve fire stopping, fire doors, emergency lighting and other works.

'The works are being done on a room by room basis in order to facilitate the continued operation of the school during term time,' the spokesperson said. 'This, together with the labour intensive nature of the works, impacts on the timeline for the completion of the works.

'It is envisaged that the works at the school will be fully completed over the remainder of the current school year including the summer holiday period.'

A report issued by the Department of Education in Sept 2017 identified a number of breaches of fire safety standards in five schools across the country, including the gaelscoil in Greystones. The report gave the result of fire safety audits that had been conducted in 2016 on a number of schools that had been built by Western Building Systems, as part of the Department of Education's 'rapid build' school programme in 2008. Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha in Greystones was one of those schools.

The audit identified a number of deficiencies, including lack of illuminated signage, missing smoke seals and, importantly, that elements of the construction material meant that the required 60 minutes of retardation to facilitate evacuation would not be met. The audits detailed that immediate and essential improvement works should be carried out in the buildings to bring them up to fire safety compliance standards.

Bray People