The new Coláiste Ailigh, due to open on Nov. 7th, will not only offer students and staff first-class facilities, but will also address all the school’s needs on the same site for the first time.
As well as classrooms, the new school will include a library, outdoor teaching areas, an art room, rooms for woodwork and technical graphics, a music and drama room, science rooms, a special needs room, a computer suite, kitchenette, fitness centre, GAA and soccer pitches, basketball and tennis courts and a gymnasium that can also be used for school events.
The Irish-language secondary school has operated in a very compressed space since opening in 2000, said the school’s principal, Micheál Ó Giobúin. The new school, “is no more than the kids and staff deserve”, he said.
Coláiste Ailigh, housed in Sprackburn House and prefabs on Letterkenny’s High Road, now has 219 students and will have 245 next year. The new school was designed to anticipate growth and will accommodate 350 students. There is also space on the 8.5-acre Carnamuggagh site for the building to expand.
Mr. Ó Giobúin; Pádraig Walsh, contract manager for Bam Contractors; and Brian Moore, safety officer with Bam; toured the site recently with the Donegal Democrat/Donegal People’s Press, and Tonia Kiely, an English and French teacher at the coláiste.
One of the most striking aspects of the design is the way each room has access to natural light, through creative use of space, windows and skylights. Prior to construction, the site was also contoured so that the two-story building will not obstruct the views of those on the upper side of the school.
Construction began last November, and there were 60 Bam staff on site the day of the tour, though there are up to 120 at peak times. Mr. Walsh said Bam endeavours to employ mainly local contractors.
Currently, the school holds physical education classes at the Letterkenny Community Centre and also uses GAA facilities. They have held events at the Mount Errigal Hotel, An Grianán Theatre and the Regional Cultural Centre. Mr. Ó Giobúin said the school was grateful to them all for their assistance over the years.
While touring the building, Ms. Kiely saw the room that will be her classroom. “I think it’s amazing,” she said. “This year I’ve been teaching in a prefab, so it’s going to be very different.”
Mr. Ó Giobúin also wanted to thank the Donegal Vocational Education Committee for their support and credited the cooperation and professionalism of Bam throughout the process.
As the principal walked through the site, pointing out and identifying each of the different rooms, it was easy to imagine the school in a few months’ time, bustling with students, teachers and staff.
Ms. Kiely said the new building will enable the coláiste community “to feel much more connected as a school”.
“It’s going to be much better to have everything here,” Mr. Ó Giobúin said.