The pupils of Scoil Chonaill in Bunbeg started school in the school’s new 1.1 million euro building yesterday, but there was one particular element that drew the most attention.
“There were a lot of shrieks of delight when they went into the sports hall,” said the school’s principal, Cathal Ó Fearraigh.
The new school is nearly two and a half times the size of the former school building. By reclaiming lands to the rear of the school on the Clady river, Scoil Chonaill also expanded the size of its schoolyard.
“Although it appears we lost a lot of hard space at the front, once you look at the back you see we’ve gained a lot,” Cathal said. He said about 90 percent of the schoolyard area is tarmacadam and the remaining green area will be used for a horticulture programme that will see students grow their own vegetables in raised beds in the springtime.
In another green initiative, the school has a rainwater harvester to collect rain for use in the school’s toilets.
There are five new classrooms, a purpose-built classroom for students with special needs, the sports hall, a formal library and dedicated teachers’ rooms. Even the classrooms that were refurbished are larger than they were, and every classroom now has an interactive white board, kitchen and large storeroom, and boys’ and girls’ toilets. There is a computer room, a language room and a kitchen off the sports hall, which will also double for school dramas and other events.
“It feels fantastic,” Cathal said. “It’s a lovely, bright, airy building.”
The principal said the school was also grateful for the help they got from Fás to build a stone wall in front of the school, and the work of Letterkenny sculptor Redmond Herrity, whose six-foot-high sculpture made from Kilkenny limestone sits outside the building. The piece represents a book out of which geometric shapes have been carved.
The school project called for a 12-month contract but builders McCann Brothers of Omagh finished the job in 10 months, the principal said.
“They pulled out all the stops, really, to get the children in within a 10-month period,” Cathal said. The builders also used up to 15 local businesses for many aspects of the work, including painting, electrical work, ironwork, concrete and blocks, demolition and groundwork and fitting kitchens.
“We’re delighted with the amount of local labour used,” Cathal said.
He said the school’s board of management, parents committee and larger parents community have also been very involved in ensuring the move went smoothly. The parents committee also engaged a local artist to paint learning games on the tarmacadam at the front of the school.
Scoil Chonaill parents, “as always, are very supportive of everything we do here in the school, and they really came out and gave us a great hand over the past couple of days to make sure the place was ready,” Cathal said.