The Department of Education has signed an €8 million contract for the construction of three new schools on a 9.7 acres site at the Downs, Portlaoise while Minister for Education & Skills Ruairi Quinn gave the green light for the nearby Portlaoise parish primary schools development.
Three existing schools – Gaelscoil Phortlaoise, Portlaoise Educate NS and Maryborough NS – will move into their newly constructed state-of-the-art premises by September 2013.
And the parish project that will see three existing primary schools – Sacred Heart, Scoil Mhuire and St Paul’s – amalgamate into two new schools will commence next year.
Gaeilscoil Phortlaoise Principal Dominic O’Braoináin said they were very excited about the move.
“The school was founded in 1998 and we are ready to embrace the move and it is just reward for the efforts of teachers and parents. We have 216 pupils currently enrolled and the fact the new school is progressing is great news for the future of educating children through Irish in Portlaoise.”
The schools are being built under the Department of Education & Skills (DoES) Rapid Delivery programme and clearance and prepatory work has already commenced.
The contract for the project has been awarded to Coalisland construction firm ‘Western’ who earlier this year delivered the Portarlington national school building project on schedule.
The Downs project will involve the construction of two 16 classroom schools with a Sports Hall and Special Needs Units for Portlaoise Educate Together National School (ETNS) and Gaelscoil Portlaoise, and a new four classroom school for Maryborough National School.
Mr O’Braoináin outlined that everyone was looking forward to the new modern classrooms and said the facility was embellished by the fact that they’d have their own sports hall and they will share a playing pitch.
The combined capacity of the ‘rapid’ schools is 1,080 pupils.
A Traffic Impact Assessment, commissioned by the DoES highlighted the need to upgrade road junctions to facilitate the project and deal with potential traffic congestion.
Mr O’Braoináin said there was no ideal situation when it came to peak school time traffic. “We are already experiencing some difficulty with traffic at our current location but the three schools moving to share the new campus have agreed staggered opening times and hopefully that will go way some way toward alleviating the problem.”
There is a potential Phase 2 to the project, comprising an eight classroom extension to both Gaelscoil Phortlaoise and Portlaoise Educate Together, however, a separate planning application would be required.
Meanwhile, there was good news for the Portlaoise parish schools development that will see three existing primary schools – Sacred Heart, Scoil Mhuire and St Paul’s – amalgamate into two new thirty-two classroom schools with a combined capacity of 1,920 pupils.
Minister Ruairí Quinn yesterday confirmed that this project at Aghnaharna, less than a kilometre away from the Downs site, will definitely go to construction next year also.
Senator John Whelan welcomed the news. “After years of false starts and broken promises, Portlaoise is to finally get the new primary schools it so desperately needs and deserves. This wait has dragged on for well over 20 years but today is finally a good news day which will eventually rid Portlaoise schools of the need for children to go to school in prefabs.”
Portlaoise will see six new schools go to construction out of a total of fifty school building projects countrywide. These schools will make available 25,000 permanent school places and create 4,000 valuable construction jobs.
“These new schools are part of the Government’s commitment to a €2 billion school capital investment plan over five years,” added Senator Whelan.
Deputy Charlie Flanagan said it was great news that the amalgamation of the Portlaoise parish schools was on target to go to construction next year.
“Minister Quinn gave the green light yesterday. It is fantastic news for Portlaoise. Site clearance work has already begun ay the Downs and we have to ensure that every child growing up in Portlaoise can access a place in a classroom when they go to school.”