A preferred site has been chosen for a new building for St. Teresa’s special needs school in Ballinasloe which is facing closure over spiraling insurance costs.
The special needs school under the patronage of Ability West is currently housed in Ballinasloe Enterprise Centre on the Creagh Road, Ballinasloe.
It has 21 pupils, with 6 more due to start there in September, and a staff of four teachers and 11 special needs assistants.
St. Teresa’s caters to students with physical and intellectual disabilities as well as those who are on the autism spectrum, offering a multi-disciplinary approach of physiotherapy, psychological support, and speech and language therapy to help the kids reach their full potential.
Galway TD Denis Naughten said that the Department of Education has confirmed to him that negotiations are underway with a landowner to purchase the chosen site for a new school building.
No funding has yet been earmarked for the construction phase of this project.
Even if it is St. Teresa’s faces a highly uncertain future as astronomically increases in its insurance costs have made it possible the school will have to close at the end of this year.
Insurance premiums for the special needs school have shot up by more than 700 percent in just two years from €3,000 in 2017, to a bill for €26,000 which was presented last month.
The school agreed to pay the bill in May, but has warned that it will not be able to reopen in September without government assistance.
St. Teresa’s currently receives €35,000 a year from the Department of Education and has to fundraise every year to meet the gap between that and their costs.
Deputy Naughten said that he met with the Minister for Education Joe McHugh to urge him to intervene to ensure the school retains insurance to remain open,
“For far too long children with special needs had to travel huge distances to access education and now that we have a school on our doorstep it is vital that we maintain and develop it.”
Talks were held with the insurer recently but did not come to any satisfactory conclusion.
The school is currently operating out of temporary facilities which likely contributes to the cost of insurance, but not to such a colossal extent. A purpose built facility with the particular safety needs of these kids in mind could help reduce costs.