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Squeezing schools into single site ‘ill considered and wrong’

News

RAISING CONCERNS A socially distanced protest was held at the Octagon in Westport as far back as June, raising concerns over rumoured Department of Education plans for Holy Trinity National School.

Department submits sketches for two-school solution in Westport

Anton McNulty

We’ve all heard of too many children in a class, but too many schools on a plot?
A preliminary proposal by the Department of Education is suggesting that two national schools be located on the old Scoil Phádraig site in Westport. That suggestion should not be entertained, however, according to one of the schools involved.
Mayo County Council recently received correspondence from the Department of Education outlining preliminary proposals to locate both the Holy Trinity NS and Educate Together NS on the same site on Altamount Street in Westport.
Earlier this summer, children, teachers and parents of Church of Ireland school Holy Trinity took to the streets expressing their fears that the Department of Education was considering this proposal.
After receiving confirmation that the county council had received a ‘preliminary sketch’ of the plans for the site, Eoin Holmes, Chairman of the Holy Trinity Building Committee, told The Mayo News that he hoped the planners would do the right thing and reject the plan.
“We have been advised by the Department of Education that they have sent a preliminary sketch to Mayo County Council to see if they feel two schools on the one site is a runner.
“We’re hoping that the council will seize the opportunity to do the right thing and … say that the site isn’t suitable for two schools. One yes, but two no.
“To me it is ill considered and wrong. I am hoping with the council and the councillors we have an opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.

Rumours
Holy Trinity NS has been looking for a new school building since 2011 to replace the current 200-year-old school building located on the Newport Road. The school has 62 pupils and in 2019, the old Scoil Phádraig site had been earmarked as its new home.
Rumours of proposals to also locate the Westport Educate Together on the same site grew earlier this year after An Bord Pleanála rejected a proposal by Educate Together to move permanently to the old social welfare office on Prospect Avenue in Westport.
Educate Together Westport NS opened in September 2019. It is currently located in the Sharkey Hill Community Centre in Westport.Mr Holmes explained that Holy Trinity has no issue with Educate Together, but the school believes that the proposed site, which is 0.6 hectares, is not big enough for two school buildings. He added that the problem has been created by neither Holy Trinity nor Educate Together, and that it is up to the Department to resolve it.

Mayhem
The issue was raised at yesterday’s monthly meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District, where Westport-based councillors viewed their opinion that the old Scoil Phádraig site should only be used for the new Holy Trinity school.
Cllr Christy Hyland told the meeting that he was totally opposed to the option of the two schools, as it would result in traffic chaos on Altamount Street.
“If you put two schools there there will be traffic mayhem. It is obvious that the Department wants to put the schools there regardless of the traffic hazard and the danger they will create. It will be one less problem for the Department. It is very important that Holy Trinity have off-street parking and a pick-up area which will not cause traffic congestion to the town,” he said.
Cllr Johnny O’Malley agreed with his Independent colleague. “That school should be for Holy Trinity and nobody else,” he said.
Director of Services Catherine McConnell confirmed to The Mayo News that the Department of Education had forwarded a ‘very preliminary sketch’ but stated it was not an application.
“It was very preliminary sketch and nothing which you would make any decision on. They sent it on for our comment, and we have not made any comment on it yet,” she said.