Thursday 18 January 2018

Schools counting the cost of arctic weather

Caretaker Francis McGowan, inspecting the damage done by burst pipes in one of three class rooms at the Mercy Primary School, Pearse Road, Sligo.
Caretaker Francis McGowan, inspecting the damage done by burst pipes in one of three class rooms at the Mercy Primary School, Pearse Road, Sligo.
Mr. McGowan checks damage above a corridor. Credit: Photos: James Connolly


Several primary schools in Sligo, including the biggest national school in the North West region, have suffered tens of thousands of euro worth of damage as a result of burst water pipes.

The shocking sight of collapsed ceilings, sodden carpets, soaked computers and water-logged equipment was the order of the day as the arctic weather conditions wreaked havoc over the holiday season.

The worst hit schools were Our Lady of Mercy Primary School in Sligo Town, which with more than 500 pupils is one of the biggest national schools in the North West, and Calry National School, both of which suffered severe damage to a combined total of fifteen classrooms.

As teachers and parents began a massive clean-up operation at the Mercy Primary School on Pearse Road on Monday morning, wading through several inches of water flowing through two corridors, Principal, Ms. Mary Finan, described how it was like standing in a shower as water cascaded through collapsed ceilings.

It's believed the damage was caused when a pipe burst in the attic in the early hours of Monday morning. Staff had been regularly checking the premises, which has a computerised heating system, over the holiday period, and nothing untoward was noticed on the previous Saturday.

Those who discovered the damage were taken aback by the extent of the devastation.

"It's an unbelievable sight. We've lost one complete corridor and a total of twelve rooms. In the most severely damaged rooms, ceilings have totally or partially collapsed in four of them," Mrs. Finan said.

"There's lumps gone out of ceilings, with insulation foam hanging down and water still dripping. Carpets have been ruined, newly painted walls are destroyed, several of our computers and laptops are beyond repair, and countless books and teaching resources have been rendered useless."

With the re-opening of the school postponed until at least next Monday --the situation will be further reviewed at the week-end --Mrs. Finan praised the efforts of teachers and parents who responded immediately to the emergency Monday morning.

"We had more than 20 teachers and parents in their wellies, wading through the

on water, trying to clean up the mess before the builders could move in. Also, my phone hardly stopped ringing with offers of help from the wider community. It's a very difficult period for all of us, but that sort of generosity and support helps lift the spirits," she added.

Meanwhile, Calry National School was hoping to open this morning (Wednesday) after a massive clean-up operation following extensive water damage to three classrooms.

Discovered on St. Stephen's Day, when cascading water triggered the alarm system, the damage means that 80 children in three classes will have to be relocated to temporary accommodation within the school to allow extensive repairs to be carried out.

Ceilings, carpets, and equipment such as overhead projectors, books and furniture were all destroyed, with the repair bill likely to run into thousands of euro.

"The builders are working away on the repairs and we hope to be back to normal by the end of the month. Three classrooms have been completely gutted, and with very expensive equipment also ruined, the cost of the damage will amount to several thousands of euro," Principal, Mr. Pat Stenson confirmed.

Another school which fell victim to burst water pipes was Rockfield National School in Coolaney, where one of the four classrooms was completely destroyed on Christmas night.

As in the other schools, ceilings and carpets had to be replaced, with the local community again chipping in to help in the clean up operation.

"We had parents in on St. Stephen's Day clearing out the water and debris, and we had the room fully repaired and refurbished within a week. However, the roads around the school and the school yard are still badly frozen, so we're just hoping there will be sufficient thaw to allow us re-open today (Wednesday)," Principal, Mr. Ignatius Henry said.

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