Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for affording me the opportunity to raise this important issue. Malahide Community School is one of the largest and most successful post-primary schools in Fingal. It has a current enrolment of 1,002 students with a projected enrolment of 1,080 from September 1999. Given the difficulties the board of management and staff are encountering with the Department regarding the delay in resolving major outstanding matters in the school, the parents' council is threatening to take action publicly to highlight the problems.
There are four main areas of concern, the first being the need for a science room. This has been on the agenda for some time. The science facilities are totally inadequate and classes must take turns to avail of the existing facilities. How can teachers be expected to teach science subjects effectively in an ordinary classroom?
The PE hall, which was used extensively by the school and the wider community, was closed recently by the board of management on the instructions of the Department of Education and Science because the asbestos roof was leaking and was deemed unsafe. This is causing major problems for the operation of the school. Some students must be bussed to the Portmarnock sports and leisure club at substantial additional cost to the board of management. The remaining students do their PE in the yard or on the open space, and neither they nor their teachers are looking forward to the dark, damp afternoons. Can they be blamed?
The septic tank is a matter of grave concern to the parents and teachers but the officials appear to have been dragging their feet for the past ten years. It must be piped out every week at a cost of £350 a time and it is a health hazard. This matter must be taken seriously and tackled immediately — there is no benefit in waiting for Fingal County Council to come up with proposals which may take years to implement. A private treatment plant must be installed immediately, as is happening elsewhere across the country, pending the school being connected to an upgraded Malahide sewage treatment plant some time in the future.
The next matter is the school extension. The projected number for September 1999 is 1,080 pupils and it is imperative that the necessary steps are taken to have permanent accommodation ready by August 1999 at the latest. Apart from the immediate requirements, the issue of how large the school should be allowed to grow in the interests of the best education of the students must be addressed by the board of management and the Department. A school with such high student numbers should be entitled to a second vice-principal post and I strongly recommend to the Minister that such an allocation be made, if possible by next September.
As a former member of the board of management I compliment the principal and teachers of Malahide Community School for their commitment to the education of the students over the years under such difficult circumstances. Parents are rightly demanding action. On their behalf I look forward to a favourable response.