Half a million for Our Lady of Fatima School
Our Lady of Fatima School in Wexford town has been allocated almost €500,000 to facilitate the development of two new classrooms which the Principal, Rita Waters, says will make a huge difference to the facility.
While the school was told the exact figure is to remain confidential for now, Deputy James Browne, who was involved in lobbying on behalf of the facility said it's 'almost €500,000'.
The school received official written confirmation of the funding last Thursday and speaking to this newspaper Ms Waters said lobbying for such grant aid has been ongoing for over five years.
She complimented Deputy Browne for the work he did on behalf of the school and said he was very instrumental in securing the money.
'He really did a lot of work on our behalf and that should be acknowledged,' she said.
'We are the only special school in the county for children with mild learning difficulties and as such it's unfortunate that we had to wait this long,' she added.
The money will be used to develop two new classrooms and according to Ms Waters that will mean the facility will be able to take in around 20 more students at enrolment time.
'At present we can only take in 11 new students and we had a waiting list of over 60 students for those 11 places,' she said.
The lamentable fact about the current situation is that it means some children who have mild learning difficulties face entering secondary school without having had the support required to make the transition a smooth one.
'It's really difficult having to tell parents there isn't a place for their child but at least now we will be able to take in more,' said Ms. Waters.
'Mothers and fathers have cried because of wondering how their child will cope,' she added.
'We hope to convert the toilet block this summer.'
While the money is to be welcomed the reality is that the development of the two new classrooms is not likely to materialise for at least two years due to the complicated nature of the planning process.
Tenders for consultants will first have to be invited and then the appointed consultant will have to put out e-tenders and it's only then at that stage that formal planning permission will be sought.
'I would love to able to say it will be done by September, 2019, but the reality is it will more likely be 2020 but at least we know now it will happen,' said Ms Waters.
The school currently has 107 pupils who are taught by 13 teachers and 13 SNAs and Ms Waters is hopeful that the staff numbers will also increase as a result of the expansion and associated increase in numbers.
In welcoming the news Deputy Browne expressed delight that the Department of Education had 'made a commitment for [the] two extra classrooms'.
'This measure is long over due,' he said.
'The teachers, parents and Board of Management have been doing the most fantastic work in dreadful circumstances,' he added.
'The frustration has taken a toll on staff and pupils alike.'
He also complimented Ms Waters creating a suitable environment for the 107 pupils already attending.