A historic day for the Scoil Mhurie Fatima in Timahoe in Laois happened on Friday, October 4 when they officially opened their new school extension.
The official ribbon-cutting was performed by Minister Flanagan who was ably assisted by Barry Ramsbottom, the oldest child in the school, Holly Mc Grath, the youngest and two children from the Naíscoil, Kimberley Carroll and Bill Thompson.
This was preceded by a drum roll from a group of students who had spent the morning practicing with David Day from Jabba Jabba Jembe Drumming.
The school now has two new mainstream classes for fourth, fifth and sixth class students, and a pre-school onsite, Naíscoil Kantara for children with Autism (ASD).
It was the culmination of two years of building work on site. However, it was also the reward for the vision and planning of the school management, as the school continues to evolve to meet the needs of the local community.
A large crowd turned out for the ceremony, braving the after-effects of Storm Lorenzo to join in the celebrations. Present on the day were Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Bishop for Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty, Cathaoirleach of Laois County
Council Willie Aird, Sean Fleming TD, Brian Stanley TD as well as councillors Aisling Moran, Padraig Fleming and Pascal Mc Evoy. Local priests Fr Gerard Breen and Fr Sean Kelly were also on hand, as well as members of the School Building Sub-
committee, Design Team Consultants, Contractors and members of the Board of Management and Parents' Association.
Chairperson of the Board of Management, John Delaney, welcomed everyone before calling on Principal Ann Bergin to address the crowd. She spoke of the sheer joy at getting to this stage of the build and thanked all the stakeholders involved. She
remarked that "the day had been a long time in the making" with planning having begun under the previous Board of Management in 2014.
"It was a long and difficult road and I am thankful for the support given throughout the difficult times. There is a fite fuaite (the Irish term for intertwined) between school and community and the community's active support was constant and wonderful," she said.
Jean Bergin, parent of Molly who attends the new ASD unit spoke from the heart about what this new facility offers to children with autism.
"We are blessed to have this facility on our doorstep and that it means the world to us as parents that Molly could go to school with her brothers and sisters. I hope that all kids attending are as happy as Molly. Thanks to the amazing staff for all their efforts," she said.
Fr Gerard Breen congratulated all for the wonderful achievement and expressed deep gratitude to everyone responsible for the delivery of the project.
Those present were then treated to a wonderful rendition of ‘This Is Me’ by pupils of third, fourth, fifth and sixth class as part of the opening ceremony.
Bishop Nulty then spoke about the connection he has with Scoil Mhuire Fatima, it being the name of the school in the parish he previously worked in Drogheda. He also referenced the three young children that witnessed the apparition in Fatima all those
years ago and how they were the same age as many of the children sitting in front of him.
He thanked all involved and said he was delighted to be part of the celebration. His last act was to declare no homework to the delight of the children.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he was delighted to share in the remarkable occasion. He thanked all involved.
"This is a great vote of confidence in the school given by the community. It wasn't long ago in Laois that we were talking about school closures in small, rural villages," he said.
"No matter where you go in the world or what you do in your life, you will remember the people of Scoil Mhuire Fatima so enjoy it and make the most of it," Minister Flanagan told the children.
Funding for the project was secured through the Department of Education & Skills along with Parish and Parental support. The design for the development came from lead architect Peter Lyons, with the building work carried out by Carroll O'Keefe Construction.
Naíscoil Kantara welcomes 12 children each day between the ages of three and five and has state of the art facilities. It has a sensory room, occupational therapy room, class room, outside play area and modern equipment.
Scoil Mhuire Fatima has 150 pupils from families in Timahoe and surrounding areas.
Scroll through our huge gallery of photos from the opening, by photographer Michael Scully.