Thursday 20 June 2019

St Mary's College open for enrolments again as closure is deferred

CEIST, patrons of St Mary's College, Ballisodare, says that the proposed closure of the school has been deferred 'at this time'

The news that the proposed closure of St. Mary's College, Ballisodare, has been deferred was greeted with relief last week as teachers learned of the news on the final day of the school year (Friday).

Patrons of the school, CEIST, informed the Principal of the news, stating that the proposed closure of the school 'has been deferred at this time'.

They went on to say that the decision was made following support of the Department of Educations and Skills 'as it seeks to make provision for future projected enrolment in the greater Sligo town area'.

They also acknowledged the campaign from the community who have been fighting to save the school from closure.

"CEIST and the Department of Education and Skills also wish to acknowledge the great support of the community to keeping the school open and their commitment to ensuring future growth in enrolment."

St Mary's will now once again be taking enrolments for September 2019 and September 2020.

Councillor Marie Casserly, a teacher at the school told The Sligo Champion that they were not expecting any news until at least July.

"We'd been waiting on news but the consultation process wasn't up until July, people were still sending in submissions about the school.

"So we were waiting really until that date passed before we started thinking about it. It seemed as though they wanted to give us the good news on the last day of school, though!"

Cllr. Casserly (pictured) said the overriding emotion is one of 'relief' following the news.

She said CEIST will continue to act as patrons of the school, which means they will now not have to go in search of a new patron for the school.

It is not clear if the school will be safe from closure altogether now, with CEIST not committing to any particular timeframe.

But, it's much more positive news than they had received earlier in the year.

Back in February, staff and students were informed that the school would close at the end of the academic year 2020/2021.

A month later, the proposed closure day was extended by another year to the end of the academic year 2021/2022.

"It's a lot more positive for us," Cllr. Casserly continued.

"They're keeping it open because of the campaign that went on to save it and because of the projected growth figures.

"It's a total 360 degree turn by CEIST. I, and many others, have worked so hard on this. I've contacted everyone I knew looking for further information, we've made so many submissions and got parents and students and interested parties to also make submissions.

"We have shown CEIST now that there is a need for the school to be open.

"I have people's heads fried trying to sort this out. I'm relieved. I knew there was no way that they could close the school.

"We made them aware of the importance of it, what it means to current students and of course what it could mean to future students.

"It's too big an institution to be closed down. We knew it was worth fighting for. If we thought it wouldn't be worth it then we wouldn't have put in all the work that we did.

"Parents, students and the wider community all need to take a bow. This wouldn't have been possible without them.

"We pretty much told CEIST that it was a bad idea and they couldn't do it and they are beginning to see that now."

But, Cllr. Casserly says it's vital that more enrolments start coming in as they look to build up the school numbers once again.

"We need to get enrolments in again. It's vital we see those numbers growing all the time as we look to build the school up to what it was once upon a time."

As of the academic year 2018/19, there were 240 students in the school, 50 of whom are currently sitting their Leaving Certificate.

There are 28 teachers, secretarial and maintenance staff who were affected by the initial news.

Sligo Champion