The principal of the primary school in Sonna declared himself “still on cloud nine” after it was revealed this week that he was getting “a completely brand new school”.
On Wednesday, the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn, announced an additional €50 million investment in new school building projects, and Odran Naofa NS, halfway between Mullingar and Ballinacarrigy, was the only Westmeath school to be included. It is expected to be built for less than €1m.
“It’s a good day for all, I can tell you,” said school principal, Daithí O’Fiaich.
The original, two-room school was built in 1952, and even with the addition of two prefabs, was already deemed unfit for purpose 10 years ago.
“We’re getting a brand new four-classroom school, with a new learning support room, while the old building will be converted into a general purpose room,” said Mr O’Fiaich.
“Presently, we’re operating between four different buildings, and obviously if it’s wet kids can get caught in the rain. This news is an enormous lift,” he added.
He explained the forthcoming process in which he hoped to have control of his new school within 15 months.
“We go to tender within the next month, month and a half, and construction should begin by the end of this year, or early 2014, with the hope to be in the new building for the new school year in 2014,” he explained.
The school presently has a roll of 89 children from “a wonderful little community”, but this will not be significantly extended by the build.
“I used to visit other schools, and had always envied them their modern facilities. It’s a tremendous lift to know we’re getting a one-building campus for the ... put that down, and get into your class ... for the kids,” he said, with only minor distraction.
Mr O’Fiaich wanted to thank both local representatives, Willie Penrose, and Robert Troy, the latter of which brought the former Minister for Education - Mary Coughlan - to the school three years ago to look at the plans.
“We’re so relieved and happy to be on that list. The future looks bright,” he concluded.
As part of the Government’s ‘Investing in Infrastructure and Jobs’ initiative, the new funding will enable 18 primary schools and 10 post-primary schools to be replaced or refurbished, and provide state-of-the-art classrooms and facilities for over 12,000 students.
The Department’s total investment in these new school projects will come to €100 million, with the balance coming from the existing €2.2 billion school building budget for 2012 and 2016.
The 28 schools are in addition to the 275 major school building projects announced in March 2012.
It is hoped that over 1,200 direct and indirect construction jobs will be created through the projects.