Ballyfermot parents call for ‘complete pause’ on proposed three-school merger due to building construction delays
Parents and local Ballyfermot representatives are calling for an immediate pause on the planned merger of three secondary schools, fearing the new building is not ready.
It has been proposed by the Department of Education that St Dominic’s, St Carita’s and St John’s Secondary Schools merge into one building in St Seton’s which will open in September 2022.
Until then, the school will operate on three campuses.
Funding for the new school building was approved in February 2021 by the Ministry of Education.
However, parents are now asking for a pause in the school merger as the new school building is not yet ready.
Local group Ballyfermot Parents United was set up by mother Lisa Marie Hughes and they are calling for a complete break on the merger of the three schools.
She told Dublin Live that parents are not opposed to the merger of the three schools, but rather fear that the promised new building will not be completed and students will be separated on three different campuses.
Lisa Marie said: “Last Thursday parents received a letter by email from the three schools St Dominic’s College, St John’s College De La Salle and St Carita’s College stating that the new school in St Seton will open in September 2022.
“We don’t oppose the merger, we welcome it, but what we don’t want is for it to split into three campuses and for the children to be separated.”
Lisa Marie explained: “In 2019 we were told we would have a brand new state-of-the-art extension to St John’s with labs and classrooms, but there were no proposals for a physical education room for more of 800 students.
“And the canteen facilities are also not adequate, this would mean that 750 children would be directly affected and would flock to the streets of Ballyfermot every day to have their lunch, which would be a health and safety concern.
In an emailed letter to parents on January 26, the school said Year 1 pupils will start at St Seton’s on Le Fanu Road (St John’s campus), while Year 2s will be based at Drumfin Road. (Carita’s College), Years 3 and 6 will remain at their current schools and Years 4 will be based at Le Fanu Road but will also have classes at the other two campuses.
Lisa Marie said she was worried about her own son who is in Grade 4 and will be moving to a new campus.
She said: “My son is in transition year and has to move to a new campus with new teachers and no support. There has been no consultation for parents, students or teachers on the merger.
“Some students will have to leave mid-day to go to another campus if their class is based elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, the parents discovered this week that planning permission has not been filed for the new building extension.
Lisa Marie said: “On Monday we found out there was no planning permission for the extension in St John’s, to us the merger looks very rushed.
“We are bamboozled by this decision and we, as parents, feel that the pupils have not had a say.
“The only solution we are prepared to accept is a complete break from the merger until the new building is ready, as we believe the upheaval would be too much for our children after all with Covid and their segregation.
“The best-case scenario for the children would be to leave them on their current campuses.”
Meanwhile, Ballyfermot local councilor Hazel De Nortuin said many worried parents had spoken to her about their worries about the delay in the construction of the new school building.
She said: “Parents have been on me and are rightly angry at the merger of St Dominic’s, St Carita’s and St John’s.
“The original proposal is not what is delivered. If the new school is not completed, they should refrain from imposing the measures below. Teachers, students and parents deserve to be consulted on this subject.”
In a statement following a query from Dublin Live, the Le Cheile Schools Trust said: “We are listening and hearing the concerns of pupils, staff, parents and the community and are reviewing plans with the interim BOM and DES. and will share more information with all stakeholders in due course.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “St Seton’s Secondary School, Le Fanu Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10 will open on 1 September 2022. The merger of three secondary schools with DEIS status, Caritas College, St John’s College De La Salle and St Dominic’s College, results in a large new mixed school which will accommodate up to 800 pupils in its first year of operation.
“The Ministry of Education has approved substantial capital funding under the Additional School Housing Project for the construction of the additional capacity required at the Le Fanu Road site. This additional housing includes the provision of 6 classrooms additional ordinary, science, home economics, textiles, art, music, DCG, technology rooms and staff room in addition to 4 classrooms for children with special educational needs.
“The initial approval for the merger was for it to occur when the new school building was completed, but at the request of the bosses, the Department agreed for the merger to take effect from September 2022.
“The Department has engaged with the bosses in relation to school accommodation and the bosses have advised that the proposed arrangement is satisfactory pending delivery of the new accommodation.”
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