FINE Gael councillor Tom Mulhall has described conditions at Coláiste Íosagáin in Portarlington as “deplorable”
His comment came after a visit to the secondary school last month, when he was accompanied by the Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman deputy Martin Heydon.
Both were present on the invitation of school principal Seamus Bennett, teachers and the board of management.
According to cllr Mulhall, following an hour-long discussion with school representatives and a walk around the premises, both were “shocked” by what he termed as “overcrowding” in the school. Currently, 1,003 students attend Coláiste Íosagáin, which has a capacity for 750.
Cllr Mulhall said: “The management of the school have to use a one-way system in the corridors at lunch time and school finishing time to deal with the numbers leaving their class rooms
“The condition of the school is very poor, with evidence of roof leaks and very bad insulation.
“From our meeting, everyone was of the opinion that a new school was needed to facilitate the increasing numbers. The new school could be built on one of the pitches. This field could be replaced by demolishing part of the old school.”
He said that the issue has been brought to the attention of the minister for education Joe McHugh. A deputation from the school, along with deputy Heydon and cllr Mulhall, will meet the minister in the coming weeks.
On a related matter, campaigning continues in Portlaoise for the provision of a new school to accommodate up to 48 pupils, many with severe special needs at Kolbe Special School.
Students are in prefabricated buildings with no toilet facilities, which parents and staff say are totally unfit for purpose and not suitable for the extra needs of some of their children. The children have also lost the sensory room.
Parents have been informed that an addition prefabricated building will be provided sometime this month.
One parent, Genevieve Finane Fagan, commented: “The land is there (for the new school on the grounds of St Fintan’s Hospital, Dublin Road). The money is supposedly there. Letters were sent years ago from the Department of Education asking the school what was needed with regards to rooms and so forth.
“It’s incredibly frustrating and upsetting. Two of my girls go to brand new schools in Portlaoise. Their sister, who needs the most help and support, goes to a prefab. Some people have asked ‘why send her there?’ The answer is that her needs are simply too great to go anywhere else. She is 24-hour care and the support and care from the school staff is exceptional.
“My daughter deserves better and the staff absolutely deserve better. Imagine what could be done with the proper building, equipment, room and services. It’s heartbreaking and so upsetting.”