Five new state of the art classrooms were officially opened at The Rock National School last Wednesday, June 20. The celebratory evening marked the end of seven years of construction, with eight classrooms in total completed at a cost of €880,000.
In September the school will begin a new era, with a record 197 pupils, eight teachers and for the first time a working principal, Liam Ahern, who has spearheaded the growth spurt at the school.
Hundreds of parents, children and their families gathered outside in the evening sunshine for the launch, done in typical informal Rock style, to the sounds of children playing in the playground. Mr Ahern thanked all who had worked on the extensions, including the builders, architects and staff at the Department of Education who provided the money.
He thanked the teachers and all the school staff for their patience during the years of construction, and also the children. “Like us all, they put up with diggers and dumpers. They lost their playground, twice, and were most patient and co-operative,” he said.
Fr Francis McNamara PP and chair of the board of management, recalled the pioneering beginnings of the school, begun by Protestant employers to provide for their catholic workers in the 1820’s.
He called it a defining moment when he held a meeting following the retirement of longterm principal the late Tomás Culliton. “Parents made the unanimous decision to keep the school going rather than amalgamate with Mountmellick. We are where we are today because of their support,” he said.
Guests of honour to cut the red and black ribbons were three of the school’s oldest past pupils, Kitty Delaney aged 96, her younger brother Michael and Annie Heffernan (nee Whelan), aged 93. Michael started school in 1932, when it was in the old building, now a private house next to the present school. Annie Heffernan’s great grandchild Lorna Cronin is herself starting in the Rock next September. After jointly cutting the ribbon, they were presented with flowers by pupils Mark Dunphy and Rachel Feery. PJ ‘Jack’ Harding was presented with gifts from the school and the parents’ council to mark his retirement as caretaker.
All then enjoyed a feast of treats provided by parents and parents council and a tour of the new classrooms.