New policy at St. Eunan's
By Carolyn Farrar
As St. Eunan's College in Letterkenny applies its new admissions policy to next year's first-year class, Principal Chris Darby said he expected that every student on the school's first waiting list would be accommodated.
Early this year, school officials announced that an increase in applications, coupled with limited space, would force the secondary school to limit admissions in the 2011-2012 year for the first time in the college's 104-year history. Before this, St. Eunan's had accepted every boy who applied.
The new policy, created by a committee of the school's board of management, keeps overall enrolment at 900 students. In making the announcement, Mr. Darby said the policy was designed to address health and safety issues, and "to ensure the high quality of teaching and learning at St. Eunan's in the future."
Initially, the school was looking at a maximum enrolment of 160 students for the 2011-2012 year. But after the Department of Education and Skills last summer provided St. Eunan's with the four additional temporary classrooms the school had requested, the college was able to increase the maximum enrolment for the coming year to 180 students.
In addition, the school's announcement of the new policy early in the year gave students and their families an opportunity to consider alternatives to St. Eunan's. The policy groups applicants into four categories, with first priority given to applicants who are brothers or sons of eligible past or current students or staff, and second to students from St. Eunan's five main feeder schools in Letterkenny. Students from the 10 feeder schools in the greater catchment area are in the third category, with all other applicants in the fourth.
Still, St. Eunan's received 195 applications for 2011-2012. With some students deciding to attend other schools, the St. Eunan's waiting list now stands at eight students. Students who have been accepted will be asked to give their final acceptance in April 2011.
"This year I do have a very real expectation that everyone on the waiting list for 2011-2012 will be accommodated," Mr. Darby said. He said that any parents still concerned should contact him at the school.
The process begins again in the spring, when Mr. Darby will again visit national schools to speak with boys and to make enrolment packs available to all fifth-class students for the 2012-2013 year. "The numbers appear to be similar to this year," he said.
The college is also awaiting a decision on its application for planning permission to build a new school designed to hold about 900 students. At present, St. Eunan's is housed in several buildings: the main building known as "The Castle", two extensions, a separate science block and several pre-fabs.
Mr. Darby said the school hopes to hear from planning by early next year, and will then return to the department to discuss the next stage. He said the department's go-ahead for St. Eunan's to seek planning permission "was a huge leap forward for us" and illustrated the department's commitment. Tnaiste and Education Minister, Mary Coughlan, TD, expressed her support for the new school at St. Eunan's senior awards ceremony this year.
"Even given the current economic conditions, I would be confident that the project would progress, because it has been recognised by all parties that it is urgently needed," the principal said, adding that he hoped the school "is still very high on the list of urgent projects that need to be brought to fruition.
"To let us do what we're supposed to do properly, we need the new facilities," Mr. Darby said.