Scoil Mhuire Abbeyleix
New schools for Abbeyleix and Portarlington are even more pressing now, says Deputy Stanley.
Deputy Stanley raised the issue in the Dail this week, in the context of the introduction of the road map to reopen schools.
“While the road map deals with the immediate issue of the Covid crisis, I also wish to raise the need for new school buildings in Laois and Offaly, some of which are pressing issues, and more pressing now, given the demands on the system.
“The plan the Government has presented includes 1,080 new secondary teaching posts to be filled, 200 substitute staff positions and €75 million in capital grants, but all this is to be done within four weeks. That is a huge task, and it is debatable whether it can be achieved.
“Meeting social distancing guidelines will be very difficult, considering how overcrowded many of our classrooms are. Many of them are small, and in a lot of them across my constituency, Laois-Offaly, it would just not be possible to achieve social distancing of 1 m, let alone 2 m.
“For years Sinn Féin has been calling for the EU average of 20 students to each teacher. If we had that now, we would be in a much better position. According to the INTO, 17.2% of children in Laois are in classrooms of more than 30 pupils, and 17.1% of children in Offaly are in a similar situation. Decades of underdevelopment in our education system have left many of our schools run-down and not fit for purpose.
“As I mentioned, two schools in particular are in real difficulty. Trying to achieve social distancing in them will be nearly impossible due to the inadequate, unfit, cramped conditions of their buildings.
“Scoil Mhuire, in Abbeyleix, which has more than 300 pupils, urgently needs extensive work carried out. While work is planned to stop the water from coming in through the roof, which has been caught in plastic containers and buckets for nearly a year now, work is also needed on the plumbing, sewerage system and electrics in the school. That is in the short term. What they really need is a new school. There are 2 acres of vacant land at the rear owned by the parish which can be used for this.
Coláiste Íosagáin, in Portarlington, is also badly in need of a new building. This secondary school currently accommodates more than 1,000 pupils in almost 30 prefab accommodation classrooms. It is not fit for purpose. They need a new school.
“While I welcome the roadmap, I call on the Minister to include these two schools and to prioritise them for funding in the new capital programme for schools’’