Greystones school ready to reopen following one-year delay

Pupils and teachers had been unable to access the building due to a dispute between the Department of Education and Western Building Systems over fire safety issues

Students from Greystones Community National School outside the newly-built school in Charlesland, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Students from Greystones Community National School outside the newly-built school in Charlesland, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Pupils at Greystones Community National School in Co Wicklow will finally be able to move into a new three-storey school building that was completed more than a year ago.

Hundreds of pupils and their teachers had been unable to access the building due to a dispute between the Department of Education and building firm Western Building Systems (WBS) over fire safety issues.

Greystones Community College, which opened last August, had been operating on a temporary basis out of a lawn tennis clubhouse.

In a statement on Monday, WBS said “a major new contract” had been completed and that the school’s management company had received keys to the new building.

“While this is a massive and long-awaited boost for the students and staff of Greystones CNS it does not tell the entire story. This is also a story about lessons learned, poor decisions and money wasted,” it said.

“Greystones school was completed and independently certified on July 2nd, 2020, but the department refused to accept the building citing safety concerns which are now proven to be unsubstantiated.

“This same department employed an experienced design and management team which included a permanent site-based clerk of works to oversee the entire build from start to finish. Even still, a decision to deny hundreds of school children access to their new school was taken and several expensive fire tests ordered, which have now proved the building to be performing to almost double the required standard.”

According to WBS, a conciliation process concluded on April 26th, 2021 and ruled in favour of the contractor, “but this independent determination has still not been accepted by the department”.

Additional costs

“This has contributed to approximately €2 million in additional contractual costs coupled with additional rent for the prefab accommodation and other properties while a brand new, state of the art, three-storey school building lay idle,” the building firm added.

“The department has yet to accept the conciliators determination and the contract dispute will now move to arbitration adding further cost to the department and to the taxpayer,” it said.

The department said it had taken “a prudent approach to ensure it is fully satisfied that the Greystones Community National School building meets all safety requirements prior to occupation of the building”.

Following four tests, the department “is satisfied that the building can now be occupied by the school”, a spokeswoman said.

The department has met school authorities and is arranging for formal handover of the building to the school in the week commencing July 26th, it confirmed.