I want to raise the issue of Danu Community Special School and its proposed relocation to Riversdale Community College. Several years ago, parents of children with additional needs in Dublin West worked hard and relentlessly to ensure their children's needs were met. They campaigned for and won the right to establish a special school in the area. The next task they faced was to find a temporary site, which they did at Hansfield Educate Together Secondary School. They then looked forward to pupils' future needs being met by the provision of a new, purpose-built school.
During negotiations on a permanent location, the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire Education and Training Board, ETB, made a commitment that a new school would be built in Dublin to accommodate Danu Community Special School. The ETB management identified Riversdale Community College as a potential location and the management of that school agreed that a section of its land would be used for a new school for Danu. A plan was put in place, involving both schools, for the construction of the new school. On a temporary basis, approximately 40% of Riverside Community College was to be used to accommodate Danu students, following an extensive refurbishment.
Recently, however, a bombshell was dropped on both schools when they were informed by the ETB that the temporary classrooms would become permanent and there would be no new school built on the lands. A huge amount of confusion, stress and distress has been caused by this decision. The parents and children at both Riversdale and Danu schools are very upset and concerned for their future. The dismissive way in which the concerns of all of those involved were treated, especially in Riversdale, is also very concerning. The school has a new and dynamic management team, the members of which I have met. It is working hard to build up the numbers and had significantly increased its first year intake for 2021. Since the bombshell was dropped on the school and all this confusion arose, it has seen some of the numbers fall off.
The current Riversdale school building is 35 years old and in dire need of refurbishment if it is to serve the students and teachers in the Corduff and Mulhuddart communities for another 35 years. There is a need to look at alternatives that put students, parents and teaching staff at the centre of the decision-making process. Students' needs must be front and centre rather than, as seems to be the case, the financial needs of the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB. That is very important and it is not too late to do it. The work that was due to start in July will not, in fact, begin until September. The management of Danu Community Special School was informed just yesterday that its students will not be moving into the previously temporary, now permanent, classrooms in Riversdale school until December, rather than September. There is a window of opportunity for the management of both schools, the Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB and the Department to sit down together and figure out a way forward for the students, parents and boards of management of the two schools. There was an agreement in place and it was broken by only one side, namely, the ETB. The schools deserve answers and they deserve what they were promised.