New St. Francis school needs to be fast tracked

 St Francis Special School New Building Sub-Committee

Reporter:

St Francis Special School New Building Sub-Committee

The St Francis Special School New Building Sub Committee was formed at the request of the Chair of the Board of management and supported by the school Principal at a public meeting held by LDS and LOFFA, on June 2 2015. During this meeting all Laois Oireachtas Members, School Board of Management and members of LCC agreed that the St Francis Special School building on the Timahoe road has been deemed not fit for purpose for some years.

Winters in the school building causes ill health for children whose immune systems are already compromised and therefore puts yet another barrier to their learning on top of their disability.

Deputy Sean Fleming stated in our most recent Public Meeting that it would be unconscionable that another new school be built in Portlaoise before St. Francis students got their new school.

St Francis Special School New Building Sub - Committee welcomes the news of a brand new school for St. Francis students to be built on the site of St. Paul's National School Portlaoise announced by Minister Charlie Flanagan. We thank the Parish of Portlaoise and Bishop Denis Nulty for their very kind donation of the St Paul’s Site.

A timeframe of 2018 was given by Minister Flanagan for the school build to start, this timeframe is not news to the parents as St. Francis is already listed with the DES to proceed to construction in 2018, and as our committee has previously stated, 2018 is too far down the road to start construction of St. Francis new school.

This would mean that the students will have to suffer the 2016/17 winter, the 2017/18 winter, the 2018/19 winter and possibly the 2019/20/21 winters. That is possibly five more winters in a building that all have accepted is not fit for purpose right now.

How is that treating the most vulnerable children in our community with the same equality, dignity and respect as their mainstream counterparts.

Yet the new Secondary School Portlaoise which was on the DES list to proceed to construction with a timeframe given of 2019 - 2021 has now been fast tracked to be open and operating in September 2017.

Minister Richard Bruton recently reassured Deputy Brian Stanley, the new Secondary School for Portlaoise will open (not start Building) will open in September 2017 brought forward from 2019 -2021.

Yet another mainstream school has been given precedence over the most vulnerable children in our community, even though the building which houses these vulnerable children has been accepted by all as being long past fit for purpose. Our students with additional needs being treated as second class citizens yet again.

Parents would like clarity around a number of questions:

What work is currently being done around the following:

- Expected date for demolition of St Paul’s school?

- When will DES be appointing a design team for the new St Francis School?

- When will Tenders go out for demolition and construction of a new school?

- When can St Francis Special School students expect to be walking into their new school?

Parents require assurances about the length of time their children have to suffer the current dilapidated freezing cold conditions in the St. Francis school building.

The St Francis Special School New Building Sub-Committee are calling upon the following people to publicly support, along with our parents, to bring the building of the new St Francis Special School forward from its 2018 start date to the earliest possible date for our most vulnerable children. Five winters are too many to put these children through being taught in such conditions.

We call upon Monsignor John Byrne to publicly call for the new build to be brought forward to the earliest possible date.

We call upon Bishop Denis Nulty to publicly call for the new build to be brought forward to the earliest possible date.

We call upon the DES Building Unit Tullamore to bring forward the building of the new school to the earliest possible date.

We call upon all Public Representatives, Oireachtas Members and Minister Flanagan to publicly call for the new build to be brought forward to the earliest possible date.

The new St Francis Special School building must be fast tracked in the same way as the Portlaoise Secondary School.

We are asking all Laois County Councillors to pass a motion at their next meeting to have the new St Francis School fast tracked.

The St Francis Special School New Building Sub-Committee calls on everyone in our community to help bring the building of the new St Francis Special School building forward, to ensure our children do not have to spend so many winters in their current setting.

By St Francis Special School New Building Sub-Committee.