Scoil Shéamais Naofa primary school in Barna needs a new location and building for growth and safety reasons, Galway Senator Senator Seán Kyne has said.
Raising the matter in the Seanad, Kyne said that the population of Barna is expected to grow from 2,000 in the last census, to 2,750 by 2028 under the county development plan.
The current Scoil Shéamais Naofa location was built in 1980, and has an enrolment of 259 pupils.
Senator Kyne said that the current location of the school on the R336 coast road is hampered by narrow footpaths on a heavily trafficked road.
“The building is outdated in terms of classroom size, layout and energy efficiency,” he added.
“The yard space is limited and is sloped, which results in pupils falling in wet or icy conditions and is particularly unsuitable for children with a physical disability.”
He added that lands for a potential new school building, already owned by the county council, have been identified off the main Moycullen road in the centre of Barna.
Building a new primary school building there would enable “increased pupil capacity and more expansive recreational facilities” with safer access for pupils, Kyne said.
The Fine Gael TD asked Minister of State at the Department of Education Josepha Madigan, what engagement the Department has had with the board of management of the school regarding potentially relocating the school, which has been identified as a priority in the draft county development plan.
Minister Madigan said that “significant devolved funding” was allocated to Scoil Shéamais Naofa from 2009 to 2012 to provide permanent accommodation on its existing site.
This included two regular classrooms and two resource rooms, which were meant to meet the long term needs of the school, she added.
“In 2016, the Department received an application from the school for a new 16-classroom school on a greenfield site.
“I understand that the school authority was informed at the time that the Department did not see the need for a new school building, as the level of accommodation available to the school was sufficient to meet its long-term needs and those of the school planning area.”
Minister Madigan added that she understands that this remains the view of the Department, adding that road safety measures on roads outside schools are a matter for the local authority.
Senator Kyne responded that the ability of the school or council to improve safety issues is hampered by its location, and the road it is on.
“It is a busy regional route and there is no space to widen the road, provide a car park or implement safety measures. A new school is needed in the area.”
“Not only would this increase the safety of children and their parents when dropping children off, but it would also increase the safety of the road itself.”
Minister Madigan said that she would bring these concerns to Education Minister Norma Foley. But, she added, the demand for places among the 36 primary school in the Galway School planning area is expected to drop by 200 by 2024.
This does not “augur well” for the prospects of any new school in the Barna area, she said.