IN 1843 Abbeyleix South National School opened its doors to local children. 169 years later, Bishop Michael Burrows, who is a patron of the school, officially opened a new state of the art facility last Monday.
Speaking at the opening, school principal Ruth Wallace thanked a number of people for their contribution to the process, including former principal Joan Lochaden and Canon Patrick Harvey who, she said, was the driving force in keeping things moving along throughout the process.
“A new school doesn’t just happen. In our case, it is the result of years of planning and perseverance, optimism and organisation and, of course, many frustrations along the way. That we are here today is down to the commitment of various boards of management, staff, parents and the Department of Education to ensure we got what we wanted.
“We have now moved a few hundred metres from a listed building that contributes to the architectural quality and character of the town to a modern, state-of-the-art school, from which we will continue with our primary aim – ensuring that all our pupils achieve their full potential in an atmosphere where all are equally valued and respected,” said Ms Wallace.
Chairman of the board of management, Canon Patrick Harvey also spoke and praised the work of former principal Ms Lochaden, principal Ruth Wallace and vice chair of the board of management, Robin Talbot for their “commitment to the project far far beyond the call of duty.”
He also mentioned the many organisations who helped, including the design team, Simon J Kelly and Partners; architects, Downes Associates; structural engineers, Clarke Associates; mechanical and electrical engineers, Carron and Walsh; quantity surveyors; and building contractors M Fitzgibbon Builders Ltd. He praised the Department of Education and the many boards of management.
The new building is now home to four classrooms, a general purpose room, a resourse library and learning support, as well as a staff room. The school is Church of Ireland with strong links to their church and now the two buildings are very close, with pupils only a few steps away from the services they attend, as well as three of the classrooms facing onto the church. “Our links with the Parish are also exemplified by the fact that the Select Vestry gave us the three acres of land on which to build this wonderful school,” noted Ruth Wallace.