The Minister is familiar with the rapid growth of the commuter belt in north Kildare in particular. We have discussed schools in Naas, Maynooth and elsewhere where demand has greatly outstripped capacity. This situation is repeating itself in Scoil Dara, which is a secondary school in Kilcock in my constituency. It is under severe pressure because enrolment numbers cannot cope with the demand and the number of children presenting. The official number allocated to the school is 875 but at present 923 pupils are enrolled because the principal and management are doing their very best to manage the numbers.
In September 2020, there will be only 150 places available for the school year but more than 236 applicants are looking for those 150 places. A very well-attended public meeting was held last Thursday evening. I attended, as did Councillor Paul Ward from Kilcock and many concerned parents who are at their wits' end trying to understand how the children can be accommodated in the school next year. Not only is Kilcock a vibrant, busy and well-populated town with more and more houses being built every week, there is also a very large rural catchment area. Approximately 12 primary schools feed into Scoil Dara. There are 12 rural and urban primary schools competing with each other for the 150 places available in the school.
A project is under way, and I hope the Minister will tell us more about it, to extend the school. An extension is in the works. My understanding is that it is some time away. The first solution must be to fast-track the extension because 12 primary schools into 150 places do not go. It is not fair to tell any of the schools their pupils cannot attend Scoil Dara. What is important is that we increase the 150 places to 250 places or whatever the number needs to be. The extension in the works needs to be fast tracked. The Department needs to work with all of the stakeholders to get the extension open as soon as possible.