Multi-d gets building go-ahead


STAFF, PUPILS and parents at Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School, Dublin, are relieved: they have just received the go-ahead to build a brand new school on their Ranelagh site.

"We have been through the planning process twice," explains the school's principal Joan Whelan.

"We're thrilled that An Bord Pleannala has overruled objections and has upheld the decision of Dublin Corporation to grant us planning permission.

The school is located on the main, Ranelagh Road beside Mount Pleasant Tennis Club. "There's a long history of education on this site - for many years it was the home to a two-teacher Church of Ireland National School, St Columba's", Whelan explains. Eight years ago the Church of Ireland decided to close down the school, and generously signed over ownership of the property for a nominal sum - to a group of local parents who were keen to establish a multi-denominational school.

The school currently exists in sub-standard accommodation - a prefabricated building, an old church hall and a caretaker's house, which over the years have been converted into eight classrooms. The recent planning permission allows for the demolition of these buildings and the building of a new eight-classroom school, to include a general purpose room, a principal's office, a staffroom, a library and a reading room.

The new school has been designed by architects O'Donnell and Tuomey, who have worked on the Irish Film Centre and the Gallery of Photography. "It's a modern building, of simple classic design, which is intended to complement the beautiful Georgian buildings that surround it," the Ranelagh principal notes. The school hopes to move in by June 1998; meanwhile, though, it will have to move to temporary accommodation. "A suitable local location has been identified," Whelan says.

Ranelagh is one of the more fortunate multi-denominational schools - it owns its own site. The fact that schools are forced to purchase sites without any financial help from the Department of Education is one of the biggest obstacles to the spread of multi-denominational education. Many of the country's 14 multi-denominational schools are forced to rent substandard and often over-priced accommodation - when they can find it.

Crumlin Multi-Denominational School, which occupies a site in Inchicore, is currently facing eviction. Zoe Developments, the company which owns the building, wishes to develop the property as apartments. The school has been unable to find suitable alternative accommodation in the area and faces closure unless the Minister for Education steps in to help.