Build bigger Portlaoise schools call

A claim that Portlaoise’s new parish schools will be ‘too small’ has been backed up by evidence from three school principals, with one of the teachers supporting the call for larger schools to avoid using prefabs on opening day.

A claim that Portlaoise’s new parish schools will be ‘too small’ has been backed up by evidence from three school principals, with one of the teachers supporting the call for larger schools to avoid using prefabs on opening day.

Two new 24-classroom primary schools are under construction but the Department originally gave the go-ahead for two 32 classroom buildings. However, all of the principals of the parish schools have concerns that the campus will not be big enough.

St Paul’s BNS principal Des Sutton, who has seen “radical growth” in demand for places, said the new school buildings would be at capacity on opening day. He is worried that prefabs could possibly have to be used from day one. He urged the Department of Education to opt for bigger schools.

“It would be saving in the long run. The builders are there on site so it should be given the go-ahead,” he said, adding that if not, Portlaoise would “pay a cost down the road”.

St Paul’s does not take junior infants but Mr Sutton has turned away boys who have moved here because of a lack of space.

Principal of Scoil Mhuire NS in Portlaoise, Enda Hickey said 2013/14 was the ‘worst year’ to date for turning away pupils. Hesaid up to 28 pupils who had applied to Scoil Mhuire were reluctantly refused places. Of those he said some had to go to schools outside the town. Some stayed home for a year but he said two pupils, aged 6, are being educated at home because of no alternative.

The principal said the new schools could have accommodated this class but he is concerned that population growth may mean that they could be too small within a short period.

Sacred Heart NS Principal, Anne Buggie confirmed that the Department scaled back its own plan for the size of Portlaoise’s new schools. Instead, she said, the Department approved the option of so-called ‘bolt on’ extensions. She suspects that the department downsized for “economic” reasons.

Brian Stanley TD said the new schools were ‘too small’ but Senator John Whelan said expansion planning and discussions are underway.

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