Limerick students wave goodbye to outdoor toilets and say hello to school with ‘all mod cons’

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

AFTER years of having to walk across a concrete yard to use the toilet, children in Kilfinane will begin the new academic year in a state-of-the art school - only the third facility of its kind to be built in the country.

AFTER years of having to walk across a concrete yard to use the toilet, children in Kilfinane will begin the new academic year in a state-of-the art school - only the third facility of its kind to be built in the country.

A total of 143 students will take up their seats from 9am next Monday in the six-classroom school which cost in the region of €1.5 million to build.

“It is a century away from what we have been used to. It’s marvellous,” said school principal, Siobhan O’Flynn, this week as she put the finishing touches to the classrooms.

Monday will mark the final chapter in a long, drawn out saga for the people of Kilfinane who have been waiting over a decade for a new school building, due to lack of funding.

The former school building which was in use up until the summer holidays was more than 100 years old. It had only outside toilet facilities and was forced to close in 2005 due to a rat infestation.

The junior infants class of 2012 will begin their academic life in vastly different surroundings.

The new school design is unique to the Munster region in that it has been built to reach “passive house” standard. This involves high levels of insulation, energy efficiency, carbon dioxide sensors in the rooms and an enveloped, or airtight, build.

“When the temperature rises to a certain level, the windows automatically open. It actually picks up on the levels of carbon dioxide in the room and the temperature of the room so it automatically decides that the room needs to be cooled down,” Ms O’Flynn explained.

There have only been two similar - albeit smaller schools - unveiled in the country to date - in Moynalty in County Meath and in Powerscourt, County Wicklow. The school design is understood to be the generic model for future, four, five and six teacher schools.

“Our old school had lots of character. It’s a listed building and it’s a lovely building in itself but just totally unsuitable,” continued Ms O’Flynn.

The new school is built in blocks of two classrooms which are connected by a shared toilet area in between the two classrooms. The toilet area includes a wheelchair accessible toilet. There are also staff and visitor toilets.

Each classroom opens out into the yard and outside each classroom there is a paved area and a teaching garden. There is also a BMS monitor - a child-friendly touch screen display board to allow the children to check the temperature and the levels of carbon dioxide within their classrooms.

Other facilities include a large general purpose room, a staff room - which the teachers didn’t have previously - and modern resource rooms and learning support rooms.

“We have an extra classroom at the moment because we have five teachers and it’s built for six. We hope that, in time, we might build up numbers to have a sixth teacher back again, as we have had in the past,” added Ms O’Flynn.