Delay on new building for St Francis Special School in Laois

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

St Francis Special School under construction in Portlaoise

St Francis Special School under construction in Portlaoise

A long awaited new school building for Laois children with learning disabilities, will now not be finished on schedule.

St Francis Special School has almost 100 pupils aged from 5 to 19, in a cramped under-insulated prefab style building on the Timahoe Road in Portlaoise.

Their new school on the Borris Road was to be ready by last August 1, but will now not be ready until early in the new year.

Parents had long campaigned for a new building, for the health and safety of their children.

It was fast-tracked by the Dept of Education two years ago.

Work began last September 2018 with the demolition of the old St Paul’s school on the parish owned Borris Road site.

The department has now confirmed that it will not be ready until the end of 2019.

“While earlier notifications advised of an indicative completion date in Quarter 3, the completion and handover for St Francis Special School in Portlaoise is expected to be in Quarter 4. The school is being kept up to date on the position,” a spokesperson said.

Parish Priest Monsignor John Byrne is disappointed.

“Unfortunately another winter will pass in the old school. There have been improvements made to it, but we hoped they wouldn’t face another winter there. We are optimistic it will be ready for use by the school very early in the new year,” he said.

He did not know of any specific reason for the delay.

“It seems par for the course for building contracts to overrun. But this will be a very fine school, there will be excellent facilities for the pupils and staff,” Msgr Byrne said.

“It is a long time coming but at last the end is in sight, and once the pupils, staff and parents can see that it helps. We are all anxious that they get into it as soon as possible,” he said.

The high spec new school is being built by MEIC. It will have 12 classrooms, hard and soft play areas outside, a new railing and entrance and 44 parking spaces.

All six mainstream primary schools in Portlaoise are already in new buildings. The last school in the town still awaiting a new building is Kolbe Special School which is for children with profound disabilities.