Laois special needs school 'over the moon' at building news

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Laois special needs school 'over the moon' at building news

The Kolbe special school in Portlaoise

A Laois school that cares for children with profound disabilities is "over the moon" at an announcement by the Department of Education to speed up the process to build a new school.

Kolbe Special School near Portlaoise hospital has 38 vulnerable pupils who need constant care, but it relies mainly on prefabs.

It is the last school in Portlaoise waiting for a new modern building.

Principal Orlagh Mahon was informed this Tuesday May 21 that they have been placed on the 'fast track' to get a new school designed. A site was chosen beside the existing school some years ago.

"We are over the moon that something has started at last. It is absolutely fantastic news. We understand from the department that it's all systems go from here," she said.

No date has been given on construction, but a new building is "very urgent" she said.

"We got an extra prefab at Easter but it is still very cramped," Ms Mahon said.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan welcomed the confirmation that Kolbe Special School, Portlaoise has been included in the Dept of Education’s Adapt II programme for the fast-track design/planning of the project.

“I have received confirmation from Mr Joe Mc Hugh, Minister for Education and Skill that a Requests for Tender for Design Team Consultants issued on eTenders this morning. The closing date is Monday 17th June 2019 at 4pm. I understand that School principal Orlagh Mahon has been contacted and site visit dates were agreed. “ he said.

"In fairness Minister Flanagan put up a good fight for us. He always visited when we requested. We hope he will be there to turn the sod," the principal said.

Last year the school explained their problems to the Leinster Express. They include the loss of their sensory room to fit in another classroom. Their nurses station is in a cold prefab down a corridor lined with equipment. The central hall that was used for PE and school events is also now taken up with wheelchairs and equipment.

The ADAPT programme introduced by the Department in 2016 uses a professional external Project Manager (PM) to coordinate and drive design teams on projects, to speed up projects. 

The PM keeps the schools updated with progress "at all times", via the web. 

The Department meets with the PM to review the programme on a monthly basis.