Limerick schoolchildren finally set to move out of prefabs

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

SEVEN primary schools across Limerick are to benefit from a €35 million scheme to move young children out of rented prefabs into permanent accommodation.

SEVEN primary schools across Limerick are to benefit from a €35 million scheme to move young children out of rented prefabs into permanent accommodation.

Described by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan as “biggest initiative ever undertaken to replace rented prefabs in schools”, the scheme will reduce the hefty bill paid by the state to portacabin rental companies.

National schools at Knockea, Ahane, Mahoonagh and Ballagh are to get grants in County Limerick, while in the city, children at Catherine McAuley, St Patrick’s Boys and Monaleen are set to get new classrooms.

Welcoming the announcement by her Labour colleague Minister Ruairi Quinn, Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan explained that “hundreds of schools all over the country were left with prefabs that were costing the taxpayer millions in rental changes with little or no return to the state”.

“I am particularly pleased that Limerick schools have benefited from this grant allocation and I will continue to make further representations on behalf of all those schools that still have to avail of unsuitable prefab facilities to accommodate pupils and students,” commented Deputy O’Sullivan.

The scheme announced last week aims to take around 6,000 young children out of rented prefabs in close to 200 schools - around a third of the total number of schools paying rent for prefabs.

In Clare, primary pupils in Parteen, Cratloe and Shannon (St Conaire’s) will all benefit.

Cllr Cathal Crowe, himself a teacher, said Parteen NS was about to get two new classroom buildings under the scheme.

“Parteen currently has five prefabricated classrooms. While these classrooms are suitable for purpose, they are no substitute for solid-walled, permanent buildings. It costs a lot of money for the Department of Education to rent a single prefab yet for several years the trend had been to rent rather than build classroom accommodation. The average rental cost of a standard 80 square-metre prefab classroom is approximately €15,000 per annum,” he explained.

“As a councillor and primary school teacher, I would urge the Minister for Education to undertake a comprehensive audit of all prefabricated classroom accommodation in the country. Prefabricated classrooms were always intended to be temporary solutions to meet accommodation shortfalls but many have remained on for 20 years or more years,” said Cllr Crowe.

“Meelick National School is a case in point. In September 1988, when I was a senior infants pupil at the school, the school was granted their first prefab classroom. Eighteen years later, I returned to the school as a member of its teaching staff and the prefab was still there and in daily use.”

In these recessionary times there is an opportunity to build classrooms at a fraction of what they would have cost to build 10 or more years ago,” said Cllr Crowe.