Monday 22 January 2018

Lusk parents meet Minister

Lusk Community College parents eyeball Minister for Education over ongoing new school building delays

The Lusk Community College Parents Association at the Dail
The Lusk Community College Parents Association at the Dail

John Manning

Lusk Community College's Parents Association Building Subcommittee has had a face to face meeting with the Minister for Education over continuing delays in delivering the second phase of the school building and came away 'hopeful that with ongoing support and pressure from the local community, the parties involved in the project will endeavour to ensure that the school will be ready for occupation for the start of the 2019/2020 school year'.

While the committee declared itself 'satisfied that there is now unlikely to be a lack of oversight on the project and that it should proceed normally now', it was clear from the meeting that there are is still huge disagreement between the committee and the Department of Education on why and how long the project has been delayed.

The committee say they now have been given 'a commitment that they will be updated on a monthly basis with project progress reports'.

Following on from the commitments given by local politicians at a Public Meeting in Lusk on the issue that brought parents out onto the street, earlier this year, a meeting with Minister for Education was arranged on behalf of the Lusk Community College Parents Association Building Subcommittee and this took place at the end of June.

The meeting was attended by the Minister, his assistant Sarah, Mr. Tom Plunkett from the Department of Education, Mr. Paddy Lavelle from the ETB and school Principal Ms. Orla Forde. All the local TDs (Clare Daly, Louise O'Reilly, Darragh O'Brien, Brendan Ryan and Alan Farrell), Councillor Tom O'Leary and Senator James Reilly also took part.

Although the entire subcommittee made themselves available for the meeting and were present in the Dáil on the day to meet the representatives, only three members were allowed to participate.

The committee presented the Minister with the 1,225 signatures collected on an online petition and outlining the grounds for their concerns.

The Minister responded by restating his position that he acknowledged that there had been delays in the project and the current delay is due to necessary prudence when going to tender for the project.

He claimed that the project was in fact ahead of schedule because it was originally scheduled to be included in the 2018 Building Programme but was already at tender stage but the committee representatives said the Minister was incorrect in his assessment of the project time-line.

However, the committee indicated that their focus for the meeting was to deal with the future developments and not past failings and asked if there was a possibility of expediting the project.

Mr. Plunkett made the point that he was not aware where the committee had the information that the building was originally due for completion in 2014 but referring to documentation obtained under a Freedom of Information request, the committee read from a 2012 email from the project architects stating ' these schools are not now required until August 2015, the Start on Site date on site could be held until January 2014'.

Minister Bruton said that all building projects experienced procedural delays of some sort or other. The committee again re-iterated that in the case of the Lusk Community College building project, it was not a case of procedural delays but of 'inaction at the project level'.

Deputy Ryan asked if there was a way of 'micro-managing' the project in the sense that it is not let sit on someone's desk.

Mr Plunkett indicated that in the case of annual leave, etc. if something needed to be moved on, there are other officials who can deal with it.

Deputy Ryan asked if there was some contingency that could be built into the project to avoid further delays. Mr Plunkett referred to schools that had opened recently using power generators because there was no connectivity available to the electricity grid as an example of the department's ability to provide contingency. Deputy Farrell asked the Minister if the school could receive regular progress updates and this was agreed to.

DDLETB CEO Mr. Lavelle pointed to how well the school was integrating into the local community but the committee pointed out to him that it was this very success that was now 'in jeopardy' as a result of the delays. Mr Lavelle confirmed more prefabs will need be installed on-site to cater for new students until the new school building is completed.

Fingal Independent

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