Department of Education confirms Laois schools on list for repair work after building issues discovered

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

western building systems

Gaelscoil Phortlaoise and Educate Together Portlaoise.

Work has to be carried out at three Laois primary schools in Portlaoise and Portarlington after the discovery of structural issues but the Department of Education says more investigations and long-term remediation steps are needed to secure the buildings.

The Department of Education and Skills has provided an update on the programme of structural assessments at schools constructed by Western Building Systems (WBS) and the Department’s response.

The Department confirmed that initial on-site structural assessments in relation to all 42 schools constructed by Western Building Systems were completed on Tuesday.

Portlaoise Educate Together, Gaelscoil Phortlaoise and Presentation Primary School Portarlington are among a list of schools cleared to open in full, following "external intervention in the form of a fence around the building and protective decking".

Work has already begun at the two Portlaoise schools at a campus where a third school, Maryborough National School, has been cleared after no issues were found.

The principals of the two Portlaoise schools had communicated this to parents on Wednesday and also confirmed that the schools would open after the mid-term break.

It said the analysis of the data gathered has continued on Wednesday, in consultations between the project managers, structural engineers and Department officials.  In some cases, further on-site inspections were also required today. 

It is understood that the issues identified relate to the absence of ties between internal and external walls. The Department of Education has not published the results of its inspections.

Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh TD claimed the outcomes of further structural assessments received today are important in providing clarity to school authorities, students and parents. 

"The advice I have received is that no other building has presented the same severity of structural issues as those identified in Phase 1 of Ardgillan Community College, which was built in 2009,” he said.

The Department said contractors have commenced work on site at five schools previously confirmed as requiring internal and/or external interventions. It said teams are now mobilising to implement the necessary external interventions at other schools as outlined in the table beneath. The target is to have this work completed in the coming days. 

The Department said a later phase of this process will require further investigations and long-term remediation measures, where required. No timeframe was given for this work the extent of the work or estimated cost.

The Portlaoise schools opened in 2013 while the Portarlington school extension opened in 2012.