Principal of St Francis’ School Marian Whyte has revealed that plans are already in progress by the Department of Education to move the Portlaoise school for children with learning disabilities, to St Paul’s NS after it is vacated and renovated.
Ms Whyte did not speak during the public meeting called by Laois Down Syndrome and LOFFA last Tuesday June 2,but later explained the “grand plan” to the Leinster Express.
“We hope to go in and start doing it up after it closes next June, and be in there in two and a half years, that’s the grand plan,” she said, adding that the budget would be several million.
Asked about parents’ concerns about children with disabilities being in a school with stairs, she said “we hope to knock the top off. There is no way i am going to have anything unsafe. It’s possible we could have storage upstairs,” she said.
“Department architects will do it, the engineers have been down and looked at that school, they will be looking again on a walk-through with myself and Fr Paddy,” she said.
Asked if the sub-group will be included on that walk-through, she said “everybody is included, the Board of Management, the parents Association, we will keep everyone updated on progress, by talking to them. We have an open door system”.
Ms Whyte said the school’s application for extra insulation was turned down by the Department of Education, because they were planning to move St Francis’.
Similar schools were built in the early 70’s in Carlow and Newbridge, but Carlow’s had space to add on classes and facilities including a sensory pool, while St Francis’ remains in a cold concrete flatroof building.
“They haven’t all got good schools. For a good while it suited parents to keep children in local schools. The policy was to keep children in mainstream. In the last year I am getting the feeling that this has changed,” the principal said.
“ We have great staff here but of course we would love a new school, we would like more space for PE, it’s very important,” she said.
Temporary classrooms are to be given, but the principal said this will not defer the move.
“No, not with this. The temporary accommodation will provide sensory rooms, rooms for art, therapy, music and meetings,” she said.