Adjournment Debate. - Schools Refurbishment.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for allowing me to discuss the matter of Scoil Íde, Curranes national school, in Castleisland, County Kerry. The school was constructed in 1962 but there has been no further extension to its two classrooms since then.

In January 1984, a third teacher commenced work in the school, but she had to teach her 28 pupils in a converted hallway and cloakroom. She taught in these cramped surroundings until October 1988 when a prefab was provided by the Department. Three classes are now using the dilapidated, 14 year old prefab which is small, damp and a health hazard. Mould is cleared from its walls and ceilings on a regular basis. There are continual problems with head lice as a result of the close proximity of the children. The prefabricated classroom, which measures about 7 m x 5 m, houses 25 students. There are only two toilets in the prefab and the area used for hanging coats measures only 2 m x 2.22 m. The roof of the prefab has been repaired twice and the disintegrating floor timbers have also been replaced on two occasions.

The school is located on an exposed site and is open to the elements. The lack of insulation in the prefab causes extreme temperature variations, from very hot and humid in summer to cold and miserable in winter. This means that the children are exposed to infections of all kinds, including colds, influenza and bronchitis. The teacher working in these conditions spent five years working in the corridor of the existing school. Her working conditions are unsatisfactory and demoralising and her foot has broken through the rotten floorboards on a number of occasions.

The school's water supply has been found to be unsafe for human consumption as it contains high levels of bacteria and iron, among other problems. It is brown and apart from its ugly and disgusting appearance, it is discolouring the toilets and other sanitary facilities. Pupils and staff have no available drinking water. A remedial teacher and a resource teacher who work with a special needs child in the school have to use a room no bigger than a cupboard. Pupil numbers have increased due to the large number of houses being constructed within the school's catchment area. The numbers look set to increase further in the next three to five years, especially as the school has a good reputation due to its excellent teachers.

A child who has had a bone marrow transplant is due to commence in Scoil Íde next year. The child is susceptible to infections and needs a clean and safe environment, so the conditions in the school at present are unsuitable. I would like to quote from a letter a group of parents from the school sent to me recently:

The parents of Scoil Íde feel very strongly and intend to fight for the right of our children to have a safe, hygienic, pleasant environment to work in. We hope you will join with us and use your influence to help us at this critical time and hope to hear from you in the immediate future.

They asked me to appeal to the Minister for Education and Science on their behalf so that the extension that has been planned for the school since 1984 can be provided. I understand that the extension is in the advanced stages of planning and should be included in next year's capital programme. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, to speak to his senior colleague to ensure it is included.

The Taoiseach will visit County Kerry next Thursday week. I publicly appeal to him to visit the school to see for himself the conditions in which the children of Scoil Íde have to pursue their education. The facilities are unacceptable in this day and age. The teachers and parents have grown increasingly frustrated. There is no excuse for allowing the prefab to be retained in such a dilapidated condition, with the problems I have outlined. There is no apparent effort from the Department and the building unit to having the prefab replaced. I conclude by appealing to the Minister of State to include Corranes national school, County Kerry, in the schools building programme for 2002.

I am glad the Deputy has given me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position of the Department of Education and Science regarding the provision of improved accommodation at Curranes national school.

The school staff consists of a principal, two mainstream classroom teachers and a shared remedial teacher. The enrolment on 30 September 2001 was 70 pupils. The school's present facilities consist of two permanent classrooms and a prefab. The Department has received an application for grant aid towards the cost of upgrading the facilities and architectural planning has commenced. The Deputy will appreciate that the Government has allocated massive and unprecedented increases in funds for the schools building programme. Decisions on the rate of progress of the construction of projects, including that at Curranes national school, will be taken in the light of the allocations to be made for school buildings purposes at the conclusion of the forthcoming budgetary Estimates.

That is an unsatisfactory reply. It is an insult to Curranes national school.