HALF a century after the doors opened in the then new national school at Ahalin in the parish of Knockaderry Clouncagh, the school has celebrated its 50th anniversary by marking yet another milestone, a new extension to the school.
And on Sunday, the school’s patron, Bishop Brendan Leahy, smiled through the rain when he arrived to bless the new building which houses a new classroom for senior infants and first class pupils as well as a principal’s office. The new, bright and spacious extension went up over the summer because the increase in pupil numbers put the school in line for a fifth mainstream teacher. The school also has two learning support and resource teaching staff.
Earlier in the day, Bishop Leahy led a concelebrated Mass with clergy, Fr Peadar Burke, Muiris O’Connor and Edwin Irwin, in which the school pupils played a key role. Ahalin pupils from second to sixth class sang their hearts out in the choir while senior infants and first class also got their chance to contribute with “I’ve got peace like a river”. Symbols brought to the altar gave a flavour of school life in Ahalin and of its contribution to the community and the wider world and included textbooks, a laptop, a piece of artwork, a musical instrument, a football, a swimming cert and of course a hurley. But pupils also presented paper chains, to symbolise the links between the school and the many groups and individuals connected with it. Other pupils brought symbols of the school’s connection to charities; the Green Flag was also brought to the altar and a candle was lit in memory of those associated with the school who have died.
“It was inspiring to see the children so involved in the liturgy,” Bishop Leahy said afterwards.“There is a dynamic staff, parents association and Board of Management, all working together to make this school a model environment for the 119 pupils there. I met one parent who said to me his family had moved back from New York precisely because it was this sense of community that he wanted for his children. I met some women who told me of how they remembered marching fifty years ago from the old school into the new school, so they were delighted to now be present for the opening of the extension.” Bishop Leahy also performed the rededication of the grotto in Knockaderry village.