THE principal of Ennis Community College/Gaelcholáiste an Chláir has hailed the “greatly enhanced resources” available to students thanks to the school’s new €12.5 million extension.
Minister for Education Norma Foley was the special guest last Friday of Limerick & Clare Education & Training Board (LCETB) to open the state-of-the-art development that has added 4,500 square metres of teaching accommodation to the school.
The new building has three floors, with a range of specialist and general teaching spaces, along with an external area where students can play and socialise.
As well as a significant number of new classrooms, the project also includes a new Science Lab, Home Economics room, Art room, Library and General Purpose Hall.
Additionally, a full-size PE Hall, fitness suite and changing facilities have been delivered as part of the project.
At the official opening the school’s principal Brian O’Donoghue said that it is many years since the idea for the extension emerged.
“It began in 2010 when Clare VEC and the school’s board of management kickstarted the process.
“Minister, I know you will understand the excitement that prevailed when in 2019 works began on site. We are deeply grateful to you and your department for your investment not only in this project but also in our current and future students.”
He said the extension greatly improves the resources available to students.
“This facility provides our students with a state of the art environment in which to learn. It has multiple classrooms, science lab, home economics room, technology room and art room.
“The addition of a sports hall and a fully equipped gym has been a big hit with students and staff alike. Allied to this, our new building is energy efficient and we look forward to our next project in this regard, as we are part of the Government’s energy pathfinder project.”
He praised current chair of the school’s board of management Ann Norton, as well as her predecessors Mary Howard and Dónal Ó hAiniféin who were all involved in progressing the development.
Mr O’Donoghue said that delivering the extension was particularly difficult, given the pandemic. “Construction projects of this scale always bring challenges, but this project occurred during a time of unprecedented challenge as our country and the world grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic. The determination of all associated with this project has been extraordinary.”
Speaking about the school’s past and present, he said, “Ennis Community College has a deep history of service to the community of Ennis and Co Clare. From its inception in 1938 here at Harmony Row we have provided and continue to provide the highest quality of education to the young people that we serve and to their families.
“One of the prinicples of the 1998 Education Act is that of inclusivity and equality of access to all persons. We welcome all students irrespective of economic circumstances, gender, sexual orientation, religious or philosophical outlook, race or social situation.
“We are proud to participate in the Department of Education’s DEIS programme and of the establishment of a special class to cater for the needs of a select group of students, all of whom participate fully in the life of our school.
“With the establishment of Gaelcholáiste an Chláir in 1993 we are also proud to be the only providers of post primary education through the medium of Irish to the people of Clare.”
On the day students from 50 different countries welcomed the Minister in the language of their native country, and he said that the school’s diversity is an asset.
“The diversity of our community is its strength. It is our strength as a school. Along with everything else that occurs in our school and through the work of a fiercely dedicated and committed staff, we contribute to the development of confident learners and confident young adults.
“We support our students to become caring, compassionate and respectful young people who can draw strength from this strong school community and contribute to the wider community in which they live.
“Our students are what motivates and drives us as educators, and we should never lose sight that everything we do is in their best interest. We are enormously proud of each of them.”
George O’Callaghan, Chief Executive of the LCETB said that the addition of the extension is great news.
“It brings with it much needed facilities to enhance the school. As Brian stated, this process began over 12 years ago. That’s quite a while. But with these large building projects there are many twists and turns in the process.
“At the outset, we were in the middle of an economic recession when the first idea of adding an extension to the school came about. It came about because there was a need to deal with the growing number of students emerging in the Ennis area and in Clare, also to enhance the facilities of the school.”
He praised those involved in delivering the project.
“In 2019 work began and now we are here in this magnificent building and that’s a testament to the determination of everyone involved and their perseverance.”
The design team, led by Thompson Architects, worked with the main contractor, Coolsivna Construction, to successfully manage the safety of all involved and deliver a high-quality project on completion.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.