http://www.independent.ie/national-news ... 79706.html
THIRTY new primary schools will open their doors next September in response to the burgeoning demand from young families in rapidly-developing communities.
Most of the new schools are around Dublin and its expanding commuter belt in counties Meath, Louth, Westmeath, Offaly, Kildare, Laois, Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow. There is also one in Cork.
The 30 new schools account for the bulk of the first phase of the Department of Education's large-scale building projects programme for 2008, which was announced on Thursday.
Education Minister Mary Hanafin gave details of a total of 48 large-scale projects that she has approved to commence construction, including the 30 new schools.
The pressing demand for school places in newly developed areas means that applications from many existing schools for new accommodation remain on the waiting list.
The minister said the emphasis now was on delivering the maximum number of school places, but that the Government was committed to delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary accommodation.
The massive new school programme is intended to avoid a similar situation as emerged in west and north Dublin last summer when a lack of school places forced emergency responses from the department.
Planning and construction for the new schools is being fast-tracked -- and involves local authorities relaxing certain conditions traditionally attached to school building -- so that pupils will walk into permanent classrooms next September.
It represents a change from tradition where schools operated on a temporary basis -- often in a football club -- for a number of years, waiting for official approval and the money to build a permanent school.
The minister said where suitable sites were available, permanent schools were being delivered, and the remainder would be temporary schools, pending finalisation of suitable permanent sites.
The department is currently going through the process of awarding contracts for the new schools, which will be delivered through a combination of traditional build and off-site construction.
Last year, a new 16-classroom primary school at Griffeen Valley, Lucan, Co Dublin was built between March and August using this process. In relation to planning, the minister said they had "squared off with county managers and local authorities", and added "hopefully we will get co-operation from local communities".
Fingal, in north Dublin, is to get nine of the new schools.
A total of €600m is being spent this year on school building projects, and Ms Hanafin confirmed that some 254 previously announced schemes, for which authority had been devolved to schools but that had not yet commenced construction, could go ahead this year.
The patronage of all 30 new schools has not yet been confirmed, although most will be under the banner of the multi-denominational Educate Together body.
Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Carr said dozens of schools that had been waiting for years to progress a building project would be disappointed.
- Katherine Donnelly