The primary school situation in Portlaoise is set to become even more critical over the next few years, with a record number of Catholic baptisms, this year, if new primary schools are not built in the town.
By the end of the year, there will have been almost 370 Catholic baptisms in Portlaoise Parish.
Sinn Fein TD, Brian Stanley, said provision should be made now for adequate school places to be available for these children in modern classrooms in five years time.
Deputy Stanley expressed his disappointment that the list of planned school building projects for 2012 offered very little for Laois.
“While I welcome the news that Portarlington Convent NS will be extended, I am very disappointed that this is the only school in Laois and Offaly included in the proposed building/refurbishment programme.
“In Portlaoise alone for instance, the three parish schools - Sacred Heart, Scoil Mhuire and St. Paul’s - await amalgamation, while new schools are badly needed for Maryborough, Educate Together, the Gaelscoil and also Scoil Bhríde, Knockmay.
“In an architect’s report Sacred Heart and Scoil Mhuire buildings were condemned as not fit for purpose - and that was 11 years ago. There were 361 Catholic baptisms in Portlaoise Parish so far this year and provision should be made now for adequate school places to be available for these children in modern classrooms. ”
The Sinn Fein TD was also critical of the building programme which omits the amalgamation of Ballyroan Boys and Girls Primary Schools. He said “They were informed by the Department that this amalgamation would be progressed if they purchased the extra land required at the Girls School, but despite the Parish buying the land no work is going ahead on the project. This is a major setback for Ballyroan.
“All of the above schools are under serious pressure and in either out dated buildings or sub-standard or temporary accommodation. This year alone €552k euros is being spent in Laois and €300k in Offaly on rented prefabs and this is money down the drain. Laois is a county of rapid population growth but Minister Quinn does not appear to either notice this or to be aware of it.”
He said the educational needs of Laois and Offaly were being ignored.
While, local Parish Priest, Msgr John Byrne was a little more optimistic about the future of the new schools.
“A lot of the school projects are alive. Planning permission for the refurbishment of Scoil Bhride has been granted and the Summerhill school are also advancing.
“Although the cutting of the sod for the new school was not announced in 2012, we are hopeful that it will continue to advance.
“But the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” he added.