Second Laois school confirms 'protective measures' to allow repairs in Western Building Systems controversy

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Western Building systems schools portlaoise portarlington

Gaelscoil Phortlaoise & Educate Together Portlaoise.

A second Laois school has confirmed that it must take a series of steps including to allow critical repair work to carried out in the hope it allows the building open after the mid-term break.

Gaelscoil Phortlaoise informed parents that protective measures have to be taken in the wake the Western Building Systems controversy.

The message is similar advice issued also on Tuesday evening, October 30 by Ms Gemma Phelan, Portlaoise Educate Together National School Acting Principal.

The schools are located beside each other and opened in 2013 after being included in a €8 million 2012/13 Department of Education Rapid Build contract which also included the nearby Maryborough National School.

The Gaelscoil and Educate Together buildings are two storey schools while Maryborough is a single-storey construction.

A Gaelscoil statement to parents said that on Saturday (October 27) an initial structural assessment was carried out at the school. Arising from the engineer's report, further investigation is required on the building in the days ahead.

"From tomorrow, (Wednesday) contractors will install temporary protective measures to ensure the safety of our children, staff and visitors," said the message.

As with Educate Together, these are likely to include a perimeter fence (exclusion zone) around the building and protective walkways at school entry and exit doors.

"Although we expect to open Monday, we await official confirmation from the Department on this and will be in contact with you in due course," said the statement to parents.

It has yet to be confirmed what steps will have to be taken at Maryborough NS.

The contract to build the three schools was reportedly worth €8 million to Western under the Department of Education and Skills’ Framework for Rapid Build Schools.

When it won the contract it in 2012 it was claimed the entire campus would be delivered within a 36-week programme – ahead of the new school year in September 2013. 

The company also delivered new buildings ahead of schedule in 2012 for Presentation Convent Primary School Portarlington, the fourth and biggest Laois School on the list of more than 40 schools which may have structural defects.

In a statement issued earlier on Tuesday, the Department of Education said arrangements were in place with a contractor to mobilise in the event of internal and/or external interventions being required in other schools following the completion of structural assessments.

It said the initial site-based structural assessments are on course to be completed by Tuesday evening, with detailed analysis by engineers and Department officials, and any necessary follow up examinations, to continue into Wednesday.

Speaking from the Department’s Planning and Building Division in Tullamore, the Minister said:

“I am pleased with the progress being made on the programme of initial assessments. I appreciate that parents, pupils and staff are keen to hear results from inspections at schools and the Department is confident that once the further analysis is carried out by engineers and consultants we will be in a position to confirm decisions in the next day or two,” he said.