The principal of Finn Valley College, Frank Dooley, said yesterday he expects to have students in the new building on Monday.
“Things are going very well,” Mr. Dooley said yesterday. Students returned to school in the college’s old building this week, and the principal said, “We expect to have possession of the new building on Monday.”
“The important thing is to get the students in,” said Fine Gael councillor Martin Harley, chairperson of the board of management. “They’re the important ones now, at this stage.”
In the meantime, the Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC), with assistance from the board of management and college parents’ association, will appeal the decision of the Board of Education and Skills not to fund feeder buses. The VEC had requested the buses to transport students the six-tenths of a mile between the Bus Éireann drop-off point on the Railway road and the new school at Drumboe Lower.
A group of parents were due to meet last night to compile their case for the appeal and to decide how they would proceed if the appeal were rejected.
At Monday’s board of management meeting the board formally requested the VEC appeal the decision of the department not to fund the feeder-bus service, which is estimated to cost 10,000 euro for the year.
The bus issue has been a sore one for some parents of college students who take Bus Éireann transport. They argue that it is not safe for so many children to walk the narrow road to the school at the same time. A public meeting last week drew about 50 parents on the matter. Earlier this week, another meeting drew 35 parents, who again raised issues about the safety of children on the road.
The parents at Monday’s meeting directed Fianna Fáil Cllr. Patrick McGowan, a member of the board of management, to ask the VEC whether they would fund the feeder-bus service. If that doesn’t happen, the parents would like to see the college remain in the old building until the bus issue is resolved.
Cllr. McGowan had not received an official response from the VEC by the time of going to press. But he told the Democrat, “It’s not looking good.”
Issues of access and a dispute between the main contractor and the mechanical and electrical sub-contractor had put the new school in the news these last couple of weeks. On Monday, the VEC announced that a resolution had been reached in the dispute.
Also on Monday, a one-way system directed by traffic lights was put in place on the road to the new college. Cones closed off half of the road to provide space for pedestrians and to facilitate construction of a footpath. The council has reported that the estimated date for completion of the footpath is Sept. 30th, though John McLoughlan, council director of roads and transportation, said efforts will be made to finish sooner.
Concerned parents from Monday’s meeting were due to meet again last night, to compile issues they would like to see included in the VEC’s appeal. The board of management and parents association were due to meet today to compile their case for the appeal.
Maggie Gilbert, a member of the parents association and the board of management, called the recent public meetings at the request of parents. She said yesterday that the parents must also decide how to proceed.
“If the VEC says no to the money and they’re not going to keep the old school open, now what do you want to do?” she said. “The parents need to decide.”