A MILLSTREET school principal has saved the Dept of Education at least €14.6 million after putting forward a proposal to use grant money to build new classrooms rather than waste it on renting prefabricated units.
Joan O'Mahony recently learned that her proposal will now be rolled out nationwide by the Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe who hails from nearby Cullen.
The very humorous principal told The Corkman that Millstreet Convent NS has been allowed use its grant aid of €240,000 to build two new classrooms rather than buying prefabricated units.
"We are a country school and know the value of money, and I could not justify spending €240,000 on prefabricated units when I'd have two fine classrooms for it instead," said Joan O'Mahony.
The school, with over 200 students, was built during the famine.
"I heard the Minister would be in our area last year and said 'now is my time to nab him'. I went up to him and he turned to me and said - well you look like a woman who is looking for money," said Ms O'Mahony.
She said that she told Minister O'Keeffe that she had the money but wasn't too keen on wasting it on prefabricated buildings which would depreciate and wear down over time. "He loved the idea and agreed with me that bricks and mortar were the way to go," she said.
However, the Dept of Education were not so keen on the idea as they had 'no box to tick' when it came to this new idea. O'Mahony explained to an official within the department as this was a pilot project then a new sheet could be drafted which included a box to tick on it.
She got a quick correspondence from the Minister that her proposal was given the green light.
At present, two classrooms are being built by the Buckley Brothers, Ballydesmond, and it's hoped the classrooms will be ready for use on September 1.
"The school was built during the famine, and I said to the Minister, if a school could be built during that time, then surely the Department could find a few bob for us to get this project going," she said.
The national school includes a staggering 17 different nationalities - Iraq, Iran, Moldovian, Congo, Nigerian, Bulgaria, Poland to mention a few.
The land where the school was built was given by the Catholic gentry of Coomlogane over 150 years ago. O'Mahony felt the project should in honour be called 'The Coomlogane project.'
She said that up to a few years ago there were 140 children on the roll book. However, that number rocketed has rocketed with immigrants and asylum seekers. "We really are a cosmopolitan school and our motto is that everyone is welcome through our door with absolutely no strings attached," she said.
She thanked Minister O'Keeffe and Deputy Michael Moynihan who also worked on making this project a reality.
Now, 60 schools nationwide will follow this pilot programme which all started in Millstreet.
"The school's proposal made sense to me so I decided to make the option available to other schools around the country and so far almost 60 of them have chosen to follow the example of Millstreet Convent National School as part of the pilot plan,' said Minister O'Keeffe. Those include Castlelyons NSational School, Baltydaniel NS, and Scoil Freastogail Muire, Fermoy.