I wish to share my time with Senator Daly.
Adjournment Matters. - Kilrush (Clare) Community School.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
Senator Daly and I have raised this matter in the House on a number of occasions. It was agreed in 1992 to establish a community school in Kilrush. Discussions took place between the three schools concerned — the Covent of Mercy secondary school, the Kilrush Christian Brothers school and the vocational school. A site was acquired from the Christian Brothers school and it was decided to have the community school on a single site there. Progress has been made since then in proceeding with the plans.
A new architect was employed in the Department at that stage some months ago and they decided to redesign the plans for the proposed school. This has caused a delay. While it is appreciated that funding has been provided for this school in the 1996 building programme, there is concern locally that this money be secured and the school maintain its priority position. It is important we receive assurance on that from the Minister because the situation in Kilrush is totally unacceptable. Teachers and children are moving between three locations in the town, one of which is a ten minute walk. If there is heavy rain the children are in wet clothes all day.
Some months ago, the Convent of Mercy sold its property and the secondary school must be vacant by 1 June 1997 which means over 200 students who use that facility will have nowhere to go. The provision of temporary buildings in Kilrush at a future date, or any such proposal, is unacceptable. The new school must go ahead quickly.
I ask the Minister to ensure that the building unit give priority to this and that everything be done as quickly and expeditiously as is humanly possible so that a new school will be in place by 1 September 1997. Anything less would be unacceptable. I appreciate the difficulties in the workings of the system, but there have been other instances in the town where building work has been completed quickly. There is no reason one should suggest or accept that because it is a Department matters should move five times slower than in the private sector. On this occasion, it is vital we proceed rapidly.
We appreciate and are thankful for the support the Minister has given to us to date, the manner in which the site was acquired and the preparatory work done. A change of personnel in the design team resulted in a change in the design of the school and local people now have the type of school they wished for which was in the previous plan. I impress upon the Minister the importance of taking quick action in this matter so that a school will be in place on 1 September 1997.
It is now four years since a decision was made to build a new school in Kilrush. There have been numerous delays in completing the project and getting it underway. Part of the overall design was that some of the existing buildings would be reconstructed and some of that work has been completed, to the great dissatisfaction of both parents and teachers. We were taken on a tour of inspection. Anyone would agree that the work left a lot to be desired. The feeling was that, in the further stage of development, additional work should be carried out to some of the renovated buildings so that we would put in place a school capable of meeting the second level education needs in Kilrush for the foreseeable future.
At this stage, parents, teachers and pupils who attend the schools are frustrated and annoyed at the delays and cannot understand why it should take so long to put a building in place, bearing in mind that the pupils attending the school are scattered in three locations in the town. The inconvenience of that is putting pupils at the college at a serious disadvantage. It must be remedied as soon as possible.
It is feared locally that the latest change in the design will delay further the allocation of funds. When designs are changed, a procedure where the technicalities are examined must be gone through again. The new design may not meet the budget provisions for the original one. There is a fear in the community and board of management that the new design, when examined by departmental technical experts, may be more expensive and be objected to by the Department. There is a genuine fear that the new design may delay funding, although it is welcome and the parents and board of management are agreeable to it. They want an assurance there will be no change in the funding already committed: £250,000 for this year, £1 million next year and £500,000 the year after. They are fearful that, if other buildings elsewhere in the country are ready to proceed to tender stage, the money earmarked for this project, which has still to go through a number of stages including planning permission may be allocated to some other project.
That would further delay the allocation of funding for the completion of this project.
The children must attend three different locations in all weathers. The inconvenience to them and to teachers and parents is unjustified and uncalled for at this stage. I thank the Minister of State for coming here this evening and Senator Taylor-Quinn for affording me some of her time to support the completion of the project at the earliest opportunity. The time taken between the various stages should be reduced so that this can proceed to planning and tender at the earliest opportunity.
I would like for the information of the House to outline the background to the situation at Kilrush community school. The second level schools in Kilrush, the Convent of Mercy, the Christian Brothers school and the vocational school, have amalgamated to form a new community school.
The Department of Education completed the purchase in 1995 of property from the Christian Brothers in Kilrush for the purpose of providing the new community school. The property comprised of approximately six acres and buildings used by the Christian Brothers' primary and secondary schools, Kilrush, and approximately nine acres nearby to be used as a playing field.
Phase I of the project involved the refurbishment of the existing buildings. This work was completed in September 1995. However, in advance of the completion of phase II, the school is continuing to use the existing accommodation. Phase II involves the provision of approximately 1,600 square metres of additional accommodation to cater for a long term enrolment of up to 450 pupils.
The technical staff of the Department's post primary building unit have completed their examination of the school and as a result it has been decided to demolish the CBS primary school instead of renovating it. Additional new accommodation will be provided to make up the shortfall. These amendments to the format of the project have unfortunately resulted in delays but the changes have been accepted by the school authorities. The revised outline sketch scheme is currently being prepared by the design team appointed to undertake the architectural planning.
There are two further stages of architectural design which the project must go through before tenders for the construction work can be obtained. It is not possible at this point to give any definite date for the commencement of work on site. However, the Department is fully aware of the pressing need for school accommodation in Kilrush, particularly in view of the non-availability of the convent secondary school from the end of the current academic year.
The project will be accorded the highest priority in order to ensure that delays in providing the new buildings are minimised to the greatest extent possible and I assure the House that there will be no delay by the Department in processing the remaining architectural planning stages.