FRIDAY’S announcement that Salesians School, Fernbank is to close and merge with St Nessan’s School in Moylish to create a new school serving up to 750 northside students has taken pupils and parents at both schools by surprise.
In 2015, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Salesians Secondary School, both will cease to exist with a community college established on the site of St Nessan’s Community School. It will be named St John Bosco Community College - after the founder of the Salesian Order - and new links will be forged with third level institutions.
Parents and pupils at Salesians are coming to terms with the move, confirmed in a statement by Mary Doran, Provincial, Salesian Sisters.
She said: “It is naturally with regret that we are leaving the Fernbank home of the Salesian Secondary School, but this move will ensure our students have a broader subject choice, state-of-the-art facilities and enhanced progression rates to third level.”
Out of respect to the family and friends of the late Chloe Kinsella – a student at St Nessan’s – she added the official public announcement of this amalgamation had been deferred.
Sr Bridget O’Connell, the principal at Salesian Secondary School said no teaching posts would be lost as a result.
The amalgamation will have a two-year lead in, with the new school opening in time for the academic year 2015/16. But parents have vowed to fight the plans, and Fianna Fail representative Joe Crowley is to arrange a public meeting.
The Fernbank school is part of a global network of Salesian schools. Although the secondary school was only set up in 1955, the order purchased Fernbank in 1925. They moved their junior school previously operating in Thomas Street.
Between 1947 and 1955, some secondary classes were taught at the Salesians National School, before the Secondary School opened to boarders and day pupils. Salesians Infant and Primary School are unaffected by the Secondary School’s closure.
The merger of the schools was confirmed at a private meeting of the Limerick and Clare Educational Training Board (ETB) – a body which replaced the City VEC earlier this year – at lunchtime on Thursday.
Parents were called to a meeting at 6pm that day and told the news. Some were critical of the timing of this meeting, and said they were unable to attend due to the short notice given.
ETB chairman Cllr Denis McCarthy said the merger is due to “demographic shifts” on the northside.
The matter had been debated for a number of years, and in recent weeks, negotiations had been stepped up, he said.
But parents and students have been left surprised and disappointed at the news.
Many are furious, because they feel it will see their girls forced to study alongside boys for the first time.
They think they will not get their girls into another single-sex school in the city.
Speaking about her daughter Laurie, a second-year student, Marian Krueger, of Caherdavin Meadows, said: “I purposely sent her here, because I am a past pupil myself. I wanted her to go to a single-sex school , because I think they are better. It seems like we are not being given much of a choice in this.”
Angela Keenan, of Caherdavin, said parents offered to fundraise to keep the Salesians Secondary School open.
Pointing out that student numbers are actually on the rise, she said: “We wanted our daughter at an all-girls school, with a Salesian ethos. She has been exceedingly happy. I have heard not one bad word from her. It is a complete shock for all the parents to find that their child is going to be moving in their Junior Cert year to a totally new environment.”
Marian Fairbrother of Parteen sent her four daughters, and numerous foster children to the school. She is “raging” at the closure, saying she would not have sent her first year daughter to the school had she known. “It means in two years time, we need to buy a whole new uniform, and everything else,” she explained.
Students were upset by the plans. Amy Brassil, 17, said: “Teachers know you by your name, and not just as someone in their class. You go into class, and can have a joke with them. They treat you as friends.”
Mr Crowley was “stunned” by the quick closure, saying: “You have people choosing to send their girl to a girls school, and that is totally gone. The first concern is people ready to feed in from the primary school. They are asking: should I take my child out of the primary school, and put them in another which offers better access.”
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