I thank the Deputies for raising this matter and acknowledge the unity they have presented here. Firhouse Educate Together secondary school opened in September 2018 in vacant classrooms in the permanent school building of Firhouse Educate Together primary school on an education campus shared with the permanent 16-classroom school for Gaelscoil na Giúise. In September 2019, the Department put in place arrangements with Gaelscoil na Giúise and its patron body, An Foras Pátrúnachta, to use some vacant classrooms in the Gaelscoil for Firhouse ETSS. The Gaelscoil and its patron body, An Foras Pátrúnachta, has informed the Department that, due to additional accommodation requirements in the Gaelscoil, it is not possible for the secondary school to continue to operate in that building for the coming school year.
The Department is in regular communication with the school's patron body, Educate Together, on this and other accommodation matters, and the patron body keeps its school communities updated on an ongoing basis on such matters. In December 2019, having considered various proposals by Educate Together in the local area which were deemed either unsuitable or unavailable, the Department advised the patron body of the proposed accommodation at the Citywest education campus. The proposed building at Citywest is State owned and within the Department's control. It has provided high-quality, fully serviced, permanently constructed accommodation for two other primary schools up until last September. There are currently more than 30 permanent classrooms, full staff facilities, ancillary rooms and an external play area available for occupation before the start of the 2020 school year. The accommodation will also serve two new schools opening in the Citywest area this September.
While this accommodation is in the school catchment area adjacent to the Firhouse-Oldbawn catchment area, it offers the possibility of ready-made permanent and cost-effective accommodation on an interim basis for Firhouse Educate Together secondary school. The Department offered the school's management and patron body an opportunity to view the accommodation in December last and remains committed to working with and supporting the school to minimise insofar as possible any impact this temporary move may have.
The Department has informed the school that appropriate transport will be facilitated from Firhouse to the interim accommodation at Citywest while the school is in Citywest. In December, the Department authorised Educate Together to explore the possibility of providing temporary accommodation on a site in Stocking Lane in Firhouse. A proposal submitted to the Department in April was priced at an estimated €3.6 million and requires a planning application with all the time and risk that entails. However, it was never a realistic proposition that such accommodation would be available in time for the start of the coming school year.
In April 2020, the Department completed the acquisition of the permanent site for Firhouse Educate Together secondary school at Ballycullen Green, Oldcourt Road, Dublin 24 and is currently progressing the project for the permanent accommodation as part of its fast-track design-and-build programme. The first key step in this process has been reached with the acquisition of the site. The next key step is securing planning permission. Once planning permission is secured this will open up the possibility of providing temporary accommodation on this site at the earliest opportunity. However, it will not be possible to have this accommodation in place for September 2020.
The facility in Citywest currently offers the greatest level of certainty with regard to the provision of ready-to-occupy, high-quality accommodation for Firhouse Educate Together secondary school on an interim basis for the 2020-21 school year, pending its return to Firhouse when suitable accommodation becomes available there.
With regard to the possibility of Firhouse Educate Together secondary school staying in the accommodation in Gaelscoil na Giúise, the Department remains in ongoing communication with the patron bodies concerned regarding all options. I thank the Deputies for raising the matter.