THE Limerick Diocesan Office has confirmed it is considering an amalgamation of three city primary schools.
The merger of St. Michael’s National School, Scoil Íosagáin CBS Primary and Presentation Sisters Primary School, all on Sexton Street, was proposed under the Department of Education’s Area Development Plan and the diocesan office is moving ahead with plans to combine them.
“The trustees of the school, together with the schools’ patron Diocesan Administrator Fr Tony Mullins are now considering the matter,” said a spokesperson for the diocesan office.
“The decision on this will be made by the trustees and patron but will be informed and guided by the views of the schools and local community who will be consulted with as part of the overall process,” added the spokesperson.
The Department of Education and Skills also confirmed to the Limerick Leader that it was aware of amalgamation plans for the schools, which together would have around 500 students - the minority of which reside in St Michael’s, with just 50 pupils.
“The Department is aware of exploratory discussions between the schools concerned, however it would be a matter for the patrons concerned to approach the department with a proposal,” said a spokesperson.
“The decision-making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the patrons of the schools concerned, subject to the approval of the Minister for Education and Skills.
“My department’s role is to facilitate any such proposal or discussions between the relevant parties. The initiative for an amalgamation may come from a variety of sources such as parents, staff, board of management and patron. Any decisions to amalgamate schools will be voluntary and follow decisions taken at a local level.
“The financial consequences associated with amalgamations would also have to be taken into account,” added the spokesperson.
This situation came to a head recently when the principal of St Michael’s, Susan Frawley, took up a new position in Cratloe. Her job was advertised and then withdrawn, reportedly because the department refused to sanction the position, asking instead that it be filled from the existing staff on a temporary basis.
At a meeting of the Board of Management of St. Michael’s on Monday February 6, the members were told that the department was seeking a discussion on the amalgamation of the three schools and to fill the principal’s position from within the staff, with Mary O’Regan appointed in the interim period.
Ms O’Regan, acting principal in St Michael’s, said she was “in the dark” about any proposed amalgamation.
“I am not in the know at all and I don’t think anyone knows,” she explained.
Patrick Hanley, principal in Scoil Íosagáin CBS Primary said he had “heard it was out there, but at this stage it is still at the diocesan office level”. He added that he felt it would be “very difficult to merge, that doesn’t mean it is impossible but it would be difficult”.
An INTO spokesperson said: “If there is going to be a conversation, we would like to be involved from the earliest stages.
“The union’s concern would be staff and accommodating them and the welfare of the children.”