‘No clarity’ from Minister over Greystones schools and building
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
‘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.’