I am grateful to the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity of bringing up this matter on the Adjournment. The pupil to whom I refer has very special needs. She is about to attend Cuilmore national school ar an Choil Mhor. This is an overcrowded school which is already listed as substandard, with deficiencies, including a lack of suitable additional classroom accommodation for the existing 34 pupils with the capacity to cater for the special needs of this pupil. Facilities, including a classroom assistant for supervision in the classroom area, assistants for toilet requirements and supervision in the playground area must be in place before the pupil's schooling starts. Also required are a Heathfield chair, size three; an adjustable height computer table; access to a computer; an area for changing with a mat, changing bench or berth and hygienic disposal of nappies, or the fitting of a children's toilet with two drop-down rails in the girls' toilets; and repair or replacement of the concrete in the playground.
A formal application was submitted in 2001 for a new school building. The current building is over 63 years old and no longer meets the guidelines set down by the Department of Education and Science as suitable accommodation for a primary school. I can vouch for this wonderful, viable, rural community, committed to retaining its school, which is seen as the heart of the neighbourhood and community. The building is damp and in order to retain a comfortable temperature in the classroom the heating must be on all day. When pupils return after the summer holidays, the new books purchased in June are already damp and covered in mildew. Each year the school has a problem with rodents, which gain access to the building due to the sunken rotten floor.
The area limits in each classroom are totally inadequate at 18 sq. meters. This renders both rooms overcrowded and they cannot meet the needs of the three special needs pupils attending the school, with another child to come. In addition, they do not have accommodation for the remedial teacher, resource teacher or a co-ordinator to visit the school. The sanitary facilities are substandard and there are great problems with sewage back-up in the children's play area, as a small sceptic tank installed 60 years ago cannot cope with the increased population in the school. The school grounds are so limited that they are unable to relocate the tank. There are no facilities in place for the physically or visually impaired. Access to the school is via steps, leading from a busy and dangerous main road.
This is a brief outline of the problems that exist in the school. It is a two classroom school, linked by a long damp corridor. The rooms measure 6.5 metres by 5 metres, which is totally inadequate. There is a tiny principal's office which also serves as a resource room, catering for three visiting teachers, learning support resource and BTC. There is a tiny storage area and a very uneven dangerous school yard. There are no proper staff toilets, no toilet for disabled persons, no hot and cold running water, no hand washing or drying facilities and no drinking water. The heating system is inadequate. The school windows and doors are rotting and there is evidence of dampness, mildew and rodent infestation. The corridor linking the classrooms is damp.
There are problems in the area of health and safety. The school has no fire doors, exits from the classrooms are inadequate, no fire escape, no smoke alarm, fire alarm or burglar alarm and no proper fuse box. There is no security lighting. The floor is in an unsafe condition. There are potentially dangerous overhead power lines near the school. The school yard is inadequate and dangerous. There is no general purpose hall, principal's office, staff room, secretary's office, resource room, remedial room, medical room, multi-purpose room or computer room. The classrooms are overcrowded. There is no access to the building for disabled persons. There is no car parking area or bus turning bay. There are no secure staff lockers or children's lockers and storage is inadequate. All the following are in substandard or unsafe condition: plumbing, school yard and grounds, entrance gates, surrounding walls and fencing, wiring, roof, plasterwork, pest-proofing, furniture, boiler house, shelter, sceptic tank and drainage.
The management applied in September 2001 for a new school. The Department is well aware of the situation in the school and the need for something to be done. The school has been pro-active. The board of management had plans drawn up to merge the existing two classrooms into one and build and additional classroom and two ancillary rooms for resource and remedial tuition. They employed at their own cost the services of a chartered county surveyor to cost the project at €260,000.
In September 2003 the school will enrol a pupil with very special needs. She suffers from the rare disorder of absent femur syndrome. Therefore, it is quite clear that something needs to be done in this regard. I hope the Minister of State will address the issue as a matter of urgency.