It has been a long, drawn-out battle but finally there’s light at the end of the tunnel as regards the construction of a new school building to replace the existing Ennis National School. The campaign for a new school has been a 10-year process and counting but this week, design contracts were signed, moving the project for the development of a new building on a greenfield site at Ashline on the Kilrush Road, a step further.
Work on the entrance site for the new building, on land donated by the Bishop of Killaloe Dr Willie Walsh, is already underway and construction proper is expected to start next year. The new building will replace the current 700-pupil school, where overcrowded conditions have been condemned by staff, parents and the HSE.
Indeed, parents were driven to take the drastic and unprecedented measure of withdrawing their children from school over the conditions and take their protest onto the streets of Ennis. At present, there are 18 prefabricated classrooms on site.
The design team appointed for the new school building at Ashline are architects Murray O’Laoire (Cork); engineers Michael Punch and Partners (Limerick); quantity surveyors Lawlor and Partners (Ennis); service consultants Don O’Malley and Partners (Limerick) and health and safety firm Irish Project Supervisors Ltd.
The first meeting of this team took place in the last few days to formalise the progression of the project to construction stage.
Under the planning permission already in place, substantial preliminary works have been completed which should result in the development being fast-tracked with the Department of Education and Science.
Minister Batt O’Keeffe has confirmed to the school patron Bishop Walsh that Ennis National School was now a priority project. The programme of construction is planned to commence in 2010, with completion envisaged a year later.
Work on the access road from the Kilrush Road roundabout to the actual school site is progressing well and is due for completion by next spring. This will result in a fully serviced site being provided to the Department of Education and Science by Bishop Walsh.
In addition, discussions are ongoing in relation to the provision of additional playing pitches adjacent to the new school complex, which will be available for use by both the school and the wider community.