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Gaelscoil moves from prefabs to dreamland

August 30, 2011

STUDENTS who were previously educated in prefabs on the grounds of a rugby club yesterday moved to a state-of-the-art school at a former hotel in Dunkettle, Co Cork.

Gaelscoil Uí Drisceoil was set up in 2006 with a roll-book of 17 children and was based in Old Christians Rugby Club premises in Rathcooney. Numbers at the primary school subsequently rose to 240 pupils, who were taught in four prefabs and three internal classrooms at the rugby club. Principal Siobhán Ní Chatháin noted that the Ibis Hotel in Dunkettle had closed down and approached the developer with a view to refurbishing the premises to suit the needs of her pupils. Developer Seamus Geaney had intended to refurbish the Ibis and reopen it as a hotel, but decided it would not be feasible due to the economic climate. The school’s board of management approached the Department of Education, which agreed to lease the hotel from Mr Geaney for 10 years. Ms Ní Chatháin said the developer has invested about EUR1 million of his own money in refurbishing the premises.

“We are over the moon. We are very grateful to Seamus Geaney as he has bent over backwards for us. Parents are coming in this morning and they are just gobsmacked at the place. “This is a dream school for any principal – particularly coming from prefabs. We didn’t have an enclosed yard in our old school. There is no such thing as a nice prefab. They are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.” The building stands on a 4.5-acre site and has ample external and internal facilities to accommodate the needs of a developing school. It is fitted out with 16 92sq ft (about 8.5sq m) classrooms, four resource rooms, two music rooms, a drama room, a computer room, a large open-plan library area, a purpose-built cookery room and an open-plan assembly/PE hall with attached sports changing room. The school also has a tennis court and a GAA pitch. Close to the junior yard, eight enclosed raised beds have been laid down for the children to learn about gardening, while in the senior play area a basketball court and two tennis courts are provided. The school also has an elevator for disability access and a CCTV system. In recent months the school council raised over EUR30,000 to purchase equipment such as laptops and LCD screens.

Ms Ní Chatháin said the state would do well to take note of the transformation of an unused facility into a state-of-the-art school and rid itself of portable buildings or unsuitable learning buildings for children. “I would encourage the department to come down and take a look at this building,” said Ms Ní Chatháin. “It makes sense that they would buy it eventually. We are so happy. Only for this it would have been prefab after prefab while we waited for planning permission for a new premises. Every school should have its own building. “This is like a dream. “We won’t be coming in to school on a Monday with muck at the entrance because there was a rugby match at the weekend.”

Irish Examiner – Olivia Kelleher