Four years after a survey found the need for one, and after a number of false starts over the past 12 months, Castlebar finally saw the opening of an Educate Together school in the town. The school which opened its doors on Wednesday morning with 12 junior infants registered on the roll book is the second Educate Together school in the county.
The proposed location of the school at Marsh House in Newtown had to be postponed as an appeal to the granting of planning permission that was granted by Mayo County Council had been lodged with An Bord Pleanala, so the school has opened in a first floor office space in the centre of the town. The school has been the subject of much controversy since 2015 when its opening was postponed. As a divestment area, Educate Together was promised a building in which to open a school. However, the accommodation offered was unsuitable and rejected by parents and Educate Together.
School Principal Sarah Calvey speaking at the opening of the school, said: "Castlebar town is a growing and changing, diverse, society and the opening of Castlebar ETNS will provide choice to parents. In Educate Together schools diversity is welcomed and celebrated. This progressive model of education is inclusive, child-centred, and parents are valued partners in their children’s learning. We are delighted to be opening in the heart of Castlebar. We thank the Department for listening to parents and for working with our council to provide a centrally located building. It’s important that the school opened in the town - this is what parents were led to believe when they participated in the 2012 patronage survey.”
Regional development officer of Educate Together, Jarlath Munnelly, added: “As a native of Mayo I am delighted that Castlebar families now have access to a school that I’m sure will become a beacon in Ireland’s education system. This school is hard-won but I have every confidence that it is worth the wait.”
The new school was honoured to receive a letter of support from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny before it opnened, which school principal Sarah Calvey read out to the assembled children and their families. In it, An Taoiseach wrote: “Today is a historic day, the opening of a new type of school in Castlebar, that will take its place with all the other schools in the town, offering greater parental choice in their children's education. I would like to acknowledge the work of all the parents who have supported the opening of this school, who enrolled their children to start school today, or will do in the coming years. Go raibh maith agat, agus go n'eirigh an t-adh libh.”
Yvonne Coyne, a parent from the town, added: "This is a new chapter for this town and its residents. I know the Educate Together School is going to be a great addition not just to the students of this school but to all the schools in Castlebar and the community at large.”