over 1,200 children in Portlaoise parish are a giant step closer to enjoying lessons in their new state of the art school at Aghnaharna.
Last Thursday January 10, planning permission was granted by Laois County Council for a new Junior and Senior school and GP hall, to replace St Paul’s, Scoil Mhuire and Sacred Heart primary schools, subject to 17 planning conditions.
The parish must wait another four weeks in case any appeals are lodged, before final permission is granted and tenders can be sought for construction, with the multi million euro cost met by the Dept of Education.
It is hoped construction will be underway later this year on the 64 classroom school, originally scheduled to be open by this coming September. A further 16 classrooms may be built in time, bringing total capacity to 1,920 pupils.
Principal of St Paul’s NS Des Sutton welcomed the go-ahead.
“We are absolutely thrilled to see this happening, this is a major obstacle we have overcome and we are moving in the right direction. We look forward now to our new school and amenities, and also to amalgamating the boys and girls together,” he said.
As with the other two parish schools, St Paul’s on the Borris road is at capacity with children on waiting lists. More than 420 boys and their teachers are using a building designed for 250, with eight prefabs.
“We have more classes in prefabs than permanent classrooms. We use all the facilities we have and we are delighted to have them, but it will be great to have modern facilities where we can teach the curriculum to its full extent,” said Mr Sutton.
The planning decision was due on January 25 but was granted a fortnight early. Permission was applied for last August, but suffered a three month delay as the council’s planners requested further information, saying they had “serious reservations” for access and carparking as the new schools would “generate high traffic volumes”.
Monsignor John Byrne PP, Chairperson of the Portlaoise Parish Schools of Management was unavailable for comment. Last October he told the Leinster Express the parish was “in a crisis situation” with a “dire need” for school places.
The news was also welcomed by Senator John Whelan and Deputy Brian Stanley.