The ceiling in one of the classrooms at Scoil Mhuire in Abbeyleix collapsed forcing the abandonment of some parts of the building in 2019
Key education projects in Laois that must be addressed as early as possible date according Laois Minister of State Seán Fleming at the Department of Finance.
The Laois Offaly Government TD made comment in a statement issued after he says he met with the Minister for Education Norma Foley. The Fianna Fáil TD said he had detailed consultations on some of the schools needed.
He put the Kolbe Special School in Portlaoise at the top of his list. The school is in line to get a new home on the Block Road in Portlaoise where children with severe disabilities receive their education.
"I have highlighted to the Minister the absolute necessity for a brand new school building to proceed. Kolbe Special School specifically caters for children with severe to profound learning difficulties. This new school is absolutely essential and is many years overdue. During the General Election I stated that this was my number one education priority in Laois because of the specific circumstances of the children who attend Kolbe," he said.
The TD added that the new school is now at the planning application stage and tender documents are currently under preparation. He said the planning application was lodged in June and Laois County Council have requested further information.
"I have been in direct contact with Laois County Council to ensure that this planning application is approved at the earliest possible date," said Minister Fleming.
Scoil Mhuire National School in Abbeyleix also became a General Election issue in 2020 in Laois after parents went public with the extensive problems. While temporary repairs have been carried out, Minister Foley met with parents and teacher since then and promised a new inspection and report.
Minister Fleming said he reminded her of the issue.
"During the election I said that the unsatisfactory condition of the school building in Scoil Mhuire Abbeyleix would be my second priority in County Laois. I already arranged a meeting with the school authorities and the Minister and the engineering staff from the Department have visited the school. Everybody knows of the severe problem with the leaking roof, plumbing and electrical work as well as the inadequate sewage system for the school.
"The Department is examining this matter in terms of a Deep Energy Retro Fit Scheme which is a means of bringing an existing building up to the highest most modern standards. This can happen especially when the basic structure of the school such as walls for example are in a satisfactory condition.
"I am continuing to keep in touch with the school and the Minister on this and will continue pursue this matter to ensure we get progress," he said.
Dep Fleming also referenced the issue of a new home for the Dunamase College Seconary School in Portlaoise in his statement
"I have been in contact with the Department to ensure that this new secondary school, Dunamase College will proceed as soon as possible. Due to the large expanding population in Portlaoise and County Laois it is essential that there be a new major Secondary Level School available. Laois Offaly Education Training Board (LOETB) will deliver this project which is currently at preliminary design stage, the site having already been acquired," he said.
The Fianna Fáil TD said special education at post primary level is another issue that must be addressed.
"It has been clear to me for sometime as a local TD that there has been an emerging major problem in relation to the wholly inadequate special needs facilities at secondary school level in the county.
"Tremendous strides have been made for the provision of special needs supports at primary level throughout the county over recent years but this was not matched by a corresponding increase in special needs facilities at secondary level.
"It was inevitable that students in primary schools would be moving to second level education and yet adequate planning was not made for these students with special needs. I am particularly pleased that the new Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has listed as a key priority of hers to proactively cater for special needs requirements with a particular emphasis on post primary level," he said.
Minster Fleming also referenced the issue of third level education outreach facilities in Laois.
"I have highlighted that there is currently no third level institution in Co Laois to the Minister for Education. I have asked that as part of future plans that outreach facilities be provided in locations in counties where there are no third level institutions at this time. I also raised this with the Department of Further Education and the Department of Public Expenditure and will continue to promote this for County Laois," he said.
In conclusion, Dep Fleming said he is working with and actively supporting a number of other school projects through the county for new, additional, expanded and other education facilities.
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