Students write to Minister questioning delay replacing school block
Eleven classrooms were destroyed by fire in 2016 at Patrician Academy in Mallow
Students Sean O’Sullivan; Eoghan Kenny and Luke Kennedy pictured on the site of the 2016 school fire at Patrician Academy secondary school in Mallow, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Students at a Cork secondary school have written to the Minister for Education asking for work to begin on a new permanent building to replace a block of classrooms destroyed by fire in 2016.
Pupils at the Patrician Academy in Mallow have been housed in prefabs for the past year after previously spending two years moving between different locations in the town including a local GAA club, a hall belonging to a local charity and a nearby primary school.
Sixth-year student Eoghan Kenny has written on behalf of the Student Council at the 550-pupil school to Minister for Education Joe McHugh seeking a firm commitment from him when work is going to commence on a building to replace the block of 11 classrooms which was gutted in the fire.
“For four months of my transition year, a number of year groups were being taught in the local GAA complex and for the remaining months of fourth year, we were situated in the nearby primary school and for all of fifth year, we were situated in the local centre for the Irish Wheelchair Association, ” he wrote.
He said pupils were driven by bus from the school campus to the GAA complex in the morning and were dropped back there in the evening, while teachers were forced to drive around Mallow town to teach classes at the various locations .
“Thankfully, this year, we have returned to the school campus. However we are working out of prefabricated rooms that are too cold in the winter and are beginning to become too hot to even sit in, as we enter summer,” said Eoghan.
He said a recent report by Department of Education inspectors had noted the lack of facilities, including the fact there is only one construction room and only one science lab with access to gas to cater for 550 pupils.
And he pointed out that students have had to live with rotting toilets in the prefabs.
The school has had to put a cap on the number of pupils it can cater for in the absence of any firm commitment as to when work on the new school block is to commence.
“For nearly three years, not one single block has been laid on the school site, illustrating the lacklustre response from your department. Do you think this is good enough?” he wrote. “If your son was a student in our school, would you think these sub-standard conditions were an acceptable environment to learn in?
“Why are we waiting so long, can your department not prioritise our school, and when will we have a new school building? Although I will not avail of any new school building, I feel it is important to highlight the situation fellow younger students find themselves in,” he said in his letter.
Patrician Academy principal Elaine O’Regan said no cost has been given yet for the new building. She praised Eoghan for writing to Mr McHugh, saying that the staff was proud of his efforts.
A Department of Education spokesman said “the project for Patrician Academy is currently in architectural planning with a design being progressed in advance of the planning application”, which it hopes to submit in the coming weeks.
He said the school’s Board of Management would be invited to view the plans before they are submitted for planning. He said the project, which will include two classrooms for children with special needs, will be delivered under the department’s Design and Build programme.