Portlaoise College in Laois has been given the green light for a big extension with new specialist classrooms and the design work can start despite the Covid-19 lockdown.
The school is getting new extensions to both its second and third level buildings.
The Department of Education will fund the secondary school section for a new Austism unit.
It will get an extra two general classrooms, two computer rooms, a canteen / welfare facility, a kitchen and two SEN Base classrooms.
The third level college will get a 2,200 square metre extension with four more classrooms, two computer rooms, a STEM room, a Gym room and ancillary facilities, funded by SOLAS.
Principal Noel Daly told the Leinster Express that the extensions had been sought by them for a number of years.
The school is predicted to grow.
“It will allow us to expand our student population from 850 to 1150,” he said.
“We are not cramped but we have seen a big increase in recent years. This year we will have 168 first years. We have 680 in the secondary school and that is projected to reach 800 with 300 in the further education centre,” the principal said.
“It is a combination of the town growing, and the popularity of the school, more people want to go to a multi-denominational co-ed school. It is also an indication of the excellent work of the teachers.
“We were also recently granted a sports capital grant to extend our sports facilities with Clonad GAA, and once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted we hope to get on track with that,” he said.
The new project will be managed through Laois Offaly Education & Training Board, the school patron.
“It will go to design stage and all that can be done online anyway at this time. We hope by the time the design phase is completed and builders appointed that building work will have resumed.
“We are very pleased. It is fantastic news,” he said.
The news was announced last Tuesday by Laois Offaly TD and Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan who got confirmation from the Minister for Education, Mr Joe Mc Hugh that the College was approved under the Additional Accommodation Scheme 2020.
“This is good news and will be of huge benefit to the school and its students. While construction sites are currently closed, the pipeline of projects in design continues to be progressed albeit in an online and remote working environment,” Minister Flanagan said.
Building delays for other schools short on space will be looked at.
"The Department continues to engage with relevant schools in relation to necessary accommodation provision for the 2020/21 school year in light of any impact of COVID-19 on project delivery timescales, and implement contingency arrangements,” he said.
Principal Mr Daly said they will also be making use of their €19,000 share of the €10 million announced by the Department for laptops for Leaving Certs without facilities at home during Covid-19.
““We will be able to use that to focus on enhancing facilities for our leaving certs. It will have to be targeted.
“Luckily for us we are a tablet school. There was a lot of talk on the pros and cons but everyone has realised now how essential they are,” Mr Daly said.