The new Educate Together School in Castlebar, which is due to open on Tuesday September 1, will hopefully still open despite not having a home sorted out just 12 days before it's due to open, according to the group's regional development officer. The new Educate Together school for the town was announced in February of this year and would be the county's second such school after the opening of one in Ballina last year. The school had been given the old Burren National School outside the town as a home, but the building was deemed not up to the required standard by the Educate Together.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser yesterday Jarlath Munnelly, Educate Together regional development officer, said they still planned to open the school on time. "It's our intention to open the school, we have identified a number temporary options that we're happy with and we feel that we can get the school open and we're talking to the Department of Education in terms of other options in the long term, including State properties in the town." Munnelly went on to say that he expected the 10 students who have been enrolled in the school to be sitting in class when the term starts. "We're determined to keep going and open the school on September 1," he said.
Mr Munnelly's sentiments were echoed by a spokesperson for the Educate Together national office who told the Mayo Advertiser: "We are going to go ahead and open it, but not going to be in the Burren. It hasn't been decided yet, Jarlath Munnelly is seeking alternatives and is liasing with the Department to get it sorted."
Castlebar based Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne lambasted the current situation saying: "The school they gave them is an old building. Someone told me it's up on 20 years since it was used. It's only fit for knocking really. It also shows the attitude of the Department of Education and in turn the local public representatives. Kids are enrolled with no place to go, the Department of Education were saying they had no accommodation in Castlebar, but for example there is the building that the Education and Training Board have on the corner of Rush Street and Main Street in the town. They could use that until the time that they are ready to take over that building properly. There never were more vacant buildings in Castlebar at any time than there are now."
Cllr Kilcoyne also took issue with the location of the initially proposed school in the Burren. "The building they were given was out in the country and what do people do who have no transport," he said. "It was supposed to be Castlebar, but it was closer to Pontoon."
He added: "I'd have to call on the Taoiseach to intervene and make it a top priority, being a teacher himself you think he would understand. I mean it's really an insult to the children and their parents and particularly for the people who have no transport, how were they going to get out there."