Independent councillor Emmett O’Brien has questioned the need for a new secondary school in Mungret in light of the closures of three schools in the city and plans for the development of a new campus for Colaiste Chiarain in Croom.
He believes that if another school were to be built on the site of the former Mungret College, it could affect students numbers in Croom, as well as in the Salesian College, Pallaskenry, Crescent Comprehensive and other schools in the city.
“In light of the variation of the County Development Plan to assist the construction of a much needed school in Croom, the ongoing push by some of my fellow councillors in Limerick city to build yet another highly expensive school on the periphery of Limerick City in Mungret has to be called into question,” he said.
“It seems foolhardy to me that on the one hand the Department of Education is closing down, in some cases, recently refurbished schools in Limerick city and yet on the other hand proposes to open up another school adjacent to St Clement’s College, Crescent Comprehensive, Croom School and Salesian College Pallaskenry. The Minister for Education and the board of the LCETB (Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board) need to assess this accurately before any commitments are made.”
He pointed out that three secondary schools in the city are due for closure - St Enda’s College is set to close this year and Scoil Carmel and the Salesians in Fernbank to follow in 2016. At the same time, large numbers of city students are currently travelling to Croom and Pallaskenry.
“The ETB has allowed schools in Limerick city to close down because of the amount of students who are leaving the city to go to schools in the county,” he said.
Cllr O’Brien added: “It is grossly premature for any councillors to be promoting another expensive school at Mungret in the absence of the publication of the report on the configuration and development of post primary schools in Limerick city 2014-2024, which deals with demographic increases or decreases.”
However, Fianna Fail’s Cllr James Collins believes there is room for new schools in Croom and Mungret.
“The demographics don’t lie; the numbers are there and the ETB has agreed that there is a need for a school in Croom and a school in Mungret. It’s not an either-or situation,” he said.
“I am in favour of a new school in Croom and I am in favour of a new school in Mungret,” he added, pointing out that the population of Raheen, Dooradoyle and Mungret is forecast to increase substantially in the coming years.
With two primary schools to be built on the former Mungret College site, there will be a need for a secondary school to accommodate these pupils when they complete their primary education, Cllr Collins said.
He also pointed out that the recent closure of city schools was due to the situation facing the religious orders who run them, rather than any reduction in demand for school places in the city. On the contrary, these closures will create a greater need for more secondary places in the years to come.
“The net effect has been that there has been a substantial number of school places taken out of Limerick city and the surrounding areas,” he said.
“We need to provide for the numbers of pupils that are in primary school now and will need a secondary school place.”
Cllr Collins has also called on Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to provide funding immediately to carry out repair and insulation works on the prefabs in Colaiste Chiarain.
“A lot of the kids are in prefabs that are uninsulated. I was told by parents that they have to sit in the car just to warm when they collect them,” he added.
Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins has also called for action on what he described as the “chronic accommodation scandal being endured by pupils and staff at Colaiste Chiaran in Croom”.
“It’s a third world-like setting and expecting pupils to learn and staff to work in these conditions is just not acceptable any more. The local Minister must act to ensure the situation in Croom with up 65 inadequate pre-fab is addressed and replaced with proper modern new school building immediately in Croom. There has been too many let downs for the Croom community in this long running saga and Minister O’Sullivan can and must sort this out once and for all,” he said.