Former hotel becomes centre of learning as pupils check in and leave prefabs behind


STUDENTS WHO previously were educated in prefabs on the grounds of a rugby club yesterday moved to a state-of-the-art school at a former hotel in Dunkettle, Co Cork.

Gaelscoil Uí Drisceoil was set up in 2006 with17 children, and was based in Old Christians Rugby Club premises in Rathcooney, Cork.

The student body at the primary school subsequently rose to 240 pupils who were taught in four prefabs and three internal classes at the rugby club.

The school principal Siobhán Ní Chatháin noted that the Ibis Hotel in Dunkettle had closed down and approached the developer with a view to refurbishing the premises to suit the educational needs of her pupils.

Developer Séamus Geaney initially intended to refurbish the Ibis and reopen it as a hotel, but decided, with the economic climate. that proposal would not be feasible.

The board of management at the school approached the Department of Education and it agreed to lease the hotel for 10 years from Mr Geaney.

Miss Ní Chatháin said the developer has invested in the region of €1 million of his own money in refurbishing the premises.

“We are over the moon. We are very grateful to Séamus Geaney as he has bent over backwards for us.

“Parents are coming in this morning and they are just gob-smacked at the place. This is a dream school for any principal particularly coming from prefabs.

“We didn’t have an enclosed yard in our old school. There is no such thing as a nice prefab. They are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.”

The new school stands on a 4.5 acre site and has ample facilities both externally and internally to accommodate the needs and requirements of a developing school.

It is fitted out with 16 separate 92sq m classrooms, four resource rooms, two music rooms, a drama room, a computer room, a large open-plan library area, a purpose-built cookery room and an open-plan assembly/PE hall with attached changing room. The school also has a tennis court and a GAA pitch.

Close to the junior yard, eight enclosed raised beds have been laid down to facilitate children in gardening pursuits.

In the senior play area, a basketball court and two tennis courts are provided.

The school also has an elevator for disability access and a CCTV system. In recent months, the school council raised in excess of €30,000 to purchase ancillary classroom requirements such as laptops and LCD screens.

Miss Ní Chatháin said the State would do well to take note of this transformation from unused structural facility to a state-of-the-art school and rid themselves of the scourge of prefabs or unsuitable learning buildings for children.

“I would encourage the department to come down and take a look at this building. It makes sense that they would buy it eventually. We are so happy.

“Only for this, it would have been prefab after prefab while we waited for planning permission for a new premises. Every school should have its own building.

“This is like a dream. We won’t be coming in to school on a Monday with muck at the entrance because there was a rugby match at the weekend.”