Oughterard school to replace prefabs not ‘fit for teaching’

St Paul’s Secondary School in Oughterard, which had been forced to remove some of its students and staff from decade-old prefabs after its roof started caving in, has welcomed the news that funding to construct permanent classrooms has been approved.

In response to a query by Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh in the Seanad, Minister for research and innovation Sean Sherlock confirmed recently that “in view of the poor condition of the existing prefabs” at St Paul’s Secondary school an application for accommodation to replace the prefabs has been approved. Minister Sherlock added that St Paul’s has also been approved funding under the 2014 Summer Works Scheme to allow it to carry out repairs to the roof of the school building.

This news has been welcomed by school principal Orla Malone who told the Advertiser that the prefabs had been in bad repair and had rapidly fallen into further decline as a result of the heavy rainfall and the stormy conditions. Such was the condition of the prefabs that Ms Malone had to remove students and staff from the prefabs resulting in even further lack of classroom space.

“They have been in bad condition since last October. We got them 10 years ago, secondhand. Last summer, with the rain, particularly in August, it put an end to them and the roof was leaking,” said Ms Malone who applied for funding to replace the prefabs a year ago.

“When it came to the fact that the prefabs couldn’t be used they saw sense in the end. I had to take the children and the teachers out of them. We have been very stuck for space,” said Ms Malone who further explained that the prefabs will be replaced by a new construction studies room, wood preparation room, and storage room. This will then allow the existing wood and construction studies rooms to be refurbished, essentially creating new mainstream classrooms. However, the project will have to go through a tender and planning permission process meaning it could be another year before the works are completed.

“We will be without two classrooms until then, but it will be all worth it. The school is one that is growing, that is in a community area where most of the local children will attend, so it is under pressure and we want them to have the best facilities,” said Ms Malone.

Senator Ó Clochartaigh, who inspected the prefabs, described its condition as “totally unacceptable” adding that “the roof was falling in”. He concluded: “I’m hoping this is not just a pre-election promise and that it will be acted on as soon as possible.”

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