CONSTRUCTION work is to begin this year on the largest post primary school project ever undertaken in Limerick.
The new school in Croom will be located on a 20-acre green field site on the outskirts of the village near Caherass nursing home and it will cater for up to 1,000 students.
The principal of Colaiste Chiarain secondary school, Noel Malone, expects the new school – which is costing €12 million to construct - will be a model for the development and use of ICT infrastructure at European level.
“The thing we are most well-known for is our interest in IT. There will be a unique approach taken to ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in the school which we expect to be pioneering in terms of any post primary development in the country to date. It will be very futuristic in that respect,” he explained.
Construction work is expected to commence in six months time and it is anticipated that the school will take 10 months to complete.
The school is being designed by Healy & Partners Architects based in Limerick city.
“We will have very extensive sporting facilities because of the nature of new schools today – they are provided with much enhanced sports facilities,” Mr Malone explained.
“The second key aspect relates to the new subjects which we launched last year. We would probably be looking at an international dimension to the school and that’s why we are starting Chinese as a full subject next September,” he continued.
Distance learning is also set to be a big feature in the new school which has already established a strong link with UCC with regard to learning Chinese as a subject.
Colaiste Chiarain is also moving towards developing more in-house material and Mr Malone is “hopeful” that within the next three years, the school will have moved away from conventional text books, with much more emphasis being placed on eBooks.
“This is the beauty of the new junior cycle,” said Mr Malone, who has been school principal since 1999.
“I can see in the years to come that we will move to a situation whereby the conventional text books are no longer required. We hope to start that on a pilot basis next September for the first years in a number of subjects. The reality is that the skill and the genius is within the teaching – not in reading a certain book,” he continued.
The ambition is that the school will create their own eBooks, in-house, as a result of research carried out by students and staff. “We are talking about new skills for the 21st century and I think that is the approach that the department are looking to take,” said Mr Malone.
“Instead of saying ‘read chapter three’, we will be actually generating a lot of the information from the teacher and from class student research and then bringing it together in an eBook format but within the context of the school rather than from external sources.”
The secondary school in Croom dates back to 1936. The current school building was built in the late 1980s as a first phase development. The school went into major decline and in 1999 there were just 86 students attending.
Today, there is just short of 900 students attending Colaiste Chiarain which a staff of almost 70. The new building, Mr Malone said, will cater for up to 1,000 students.
“We have had to restrict the number over the last few years because we just couldn’t manage the numbers but from next year, with the new school happening, we will be able to increase our numbers going into first year which will be great because it’s terrible to be turning people away.”
Mr Malone said the school will be a great boost for staff and students, but also for the wider Limerick community.
“We are exceptionally excited about it. There will be no stopping the new school with the new infrastructure, In fairness, the staff have been absolutely wonderful and very supportive of that change. The children and the whole community deserve it. As well as serving Croom, it is going to serve the general environs of Limerick in a very positive way going forward.”