Bray People

‘No clar­ity’ from Min­is­ter over Grey­stones schools and build­ing

- Education · County Wicklow · Swedish Ministry of Education and Research · Social Democrats

EF­FORTS by Deputy Jen­nifer Whit­more to seek clar­ity from the Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion on the sit­u­a­tion with the Grey­stones Com­mu­nity Na­tional School build­ing – and the fate of the two schools linked to it – have been un­suc­cess­ful.

Deputy Whit­more raised the mat­ter with Min­is­ter Norma Fo­ley in the Dáil last Thurs­day evening in the hope of find­ing out when Grey­stones Com­mu­nity Na­tional School (CNS) and Grey­stones Com­mu­nity Col­lege will be able to move out of tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion and into the new build­ing.

Both schools had ex­pected to start the new term there un­til West­ern Build­ing Sys­tems ( WBS), the com­pany that built it, was in­formed on July 29 that the build­ing had failed an in­spec­tion and was not fit for han­dover. This was de­spite WBS re­ceiv­ing a cer­tifi­cate of com­pli­ance from Wicklow County Coun­cil on July 2.

Out­lin­ing the is­sue to Min­is­ter Fo­ley in the Dáil, Deputy Whit­more said that while Grey­stones CNS was able to re­main in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion at the rugby club, where it has been for five years, things were not so sim­ple for the com­mu­nity col­lege and its 64 stu­dents.

‘Be­cause Grey­stones Com­mu­nity Col­lege was a brand-new school, it did not have a plan B. It did not even have tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion it could go back to. The prin­ci­pal spent the month of Au­gust scram­bling around look­ing for rooms in Grey­stones,’ said Deputy

Whit­more.

‘Luck­ily, the ten­nis club be­came avail­able for the school and that is where it is at the mo­ment.

‘While they were for­tu­nate to get this ac­com­mo­da­tion, it is not suit­able as a school. A class is be­ing taught in the foyer of the ten­nis club. One must walk through the shower room to get to the prin­ci­pal’s desk be­cause it is in the chang­ing area.

‘If a stu­dent wants to move or go to the bath­room, he or she must go through two other classes to walk around the school to get in to use it,’ said the So­cial Democrats TD.

Deputy Whit­more said there were other knock-on ef­fects, with sub­jects like wood­work ‘not be­ing pro­vided this year be­cause the ac­com­mo­da­tion is not suit­able’.

Em­pha­sis­ing the ur­gency of the mat­ter, Deputy Whit­more said that the ten­nis club was only avail­able un­til Oc­to­ber. ‘We are not sure what will hap­pen af­ter that,’ she told Min­is­ter Fo­ley.

Press­ing the mat­ter, Deputy Whit­more asked: ‘What is the is­sue with the school and when will it open? When will the pri­mary school, Grey­stones Com­mu­nity Na­tional School, and the sec­ondary school be able to ac­cess that brand-new school ac­com­mo­da­tion? It is im­por­tant that the Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment ex­pe­dites this is­sue and makes sure the so­lu­tion is pro­vided to this school as soon as pos­si­ble.’

In re­sponse, the Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion thanked the ten­nis club for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the com­mu­nity col­lege and com­mended ev­ery­one for get­ting the ac­com­mo­da­tion pre­pared in such a short space of time.

She said that her Depart­ment was com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing a school build­ing for the new sec­ond-level school at the ‘des­ig­nated post-pri­mary site at Charles­land’ and

‘work is on­go­ing to achieve this as soon as pos­si­ble. Dis­cus­sions are on­go­ing with the landowner with a view to ac­quir­ing this site.’

The Min­is­ter con­tin­ued: ‘[Deputy Whit­more] will be aware of the dif­fi­cul­ties with the pro­posed ac­com­mo­da­tion that was be­ing made avail­able. My Depart­ment is in on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with the con­trac­tor on that and it will be ex­pe­dited as quickly as pos­si­ble.’

How­ever, Deputy Whit­more pointed out that the Min­is­ter’s re­sponse had ‘not brought any fur­ther clar­ity’ to the is­sues raised.

‘ There is no in­di­ca­tion as to whether the sec­ondary school will be in the ten­nis club post- Oc­to­ber. There is no in­di­ca­tion as to when the brand­new pri­mary school will be opened and both the pri­mary school and the sec­ondary school can go in there. This

school needs clar­ity,’ she said.

‘What are the Min­is­ter’s plans for this school af­ter Oc­to­ber? The school and its stu­dents need to know; they need clar­ity. I have raised the is­sue sev­eral times with de­part­men­tal of­fi­cials. I have sent emails and sub­mit­ted par­lia­men­tary ques­tions. I have writ­ten let­ters,’ said Deputy Whit­more, who added that the five Wicklow TDs were seek­ing a meet­ing with the Min­is­ter and asked if she would com­mit to one.

‘At the mo­ment, there is no in­di­ca­tion and no clar­ity, which is un­fair on the stu­dents and staff,’ she said.

In re­sponse, Min­is­ter Fo­ley said since work be­gan on the Grey­stones CNS build­ing in Septem­ber 2018, the depart­ment’s project man­age­ment tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sory team (which in­cluded an ar­chi­tect, civil and struc­tural en­gi­neer, fire con­sul­tant and oth­ers)

‘car­ried out reg­u­lar site vis­its and in­spec­tions for the du­ra­tion of the works. Mat­ters raised by the con­trac­tor were tracked on an on­go­ing ba­sis through fort­nightly site vis­its and in­spec­tions by the project team to en­sure the iden­ti­fied items were closed out.’

She said a full-time on­site clerk of works was also re­tained for the du­ra­tion.

‘ The Depart­ment will only ac­cept the build­ing and make it avail­able for oc­cu­pa­tion by the school when it is com­pletely sat­is­fied that it is fit for han­dover prior to ac­cept­ing it,’ con­tin­ued Min­is­ter Fo­ley.

‘ The Depart­ment is tak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate steps to en­sure this and en­gage­ment is un­der way be­tween the Depart­ment and the con­trac­tor in this re­gard un­der con­tract. It is too early to say how long this en­gage­ment process might take but, as the process de­vel­ops, my de­part­men­tal of­fi­cials will keep the ETB and school man­age­ment in­formed of de­vel­op­ments.’

 ??  ?? The Grey­stones Commu nity Na­tional School build­ing, which is cur­rently ly­ing empty.
The Grey­stones Commu nity Na­tional School build­ing, which is cur­rently ly­ing empty.
 ??  ?? Deputy Jen­nifer Whit­more.
Deputy Jen­nifer Whit­more.

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