Over the past few days, we have been working very hard with the Department of Education to investigate an interim accommodation solution for Tyrrelstown Educate Together NS in the wake of our recent school closure.
Last Friday, the Department met with representatives of the Board of Management and Parent Teacher’s Association of Tyrrelstown ETNS and St. Luke’s NS to listen to and address, where possible, some concerns and organisational requirements for both schools.
Over the course of the weekend, things have moved rapidly and having investigated some options, we are very hopeful that we will have a confirmed temporary accommodation solution for the majority of our classes in the next couple of days.
In addition, the Department of Education and their Consultants are currently working on an engineering solution that should allow us to continue to use the ground floor of our current premises however, the Board of Management have requested official confirmation that the school is safe for occupation, before they make a decision on an exact reopening date.
At this point, you may be aware from the media that the Department are confident of having this accommodation solution in place by Monday, 5th November 2018. Even if this target is achieved, we do not envisage the school reopening until at least 6th or 7th November as we will need to adjust our current day to day organisational procedures to reflect our new situation. This will require meeting with staff after mid-term to ensure they are fully aware of our new procedures especially in terms of supervising children at a new location. Once the above can be officially confirmed, we will notify parents / guardians of where classes will be and the exact date children can return to school.
In terms of some of the issues and concerns raised with the Department to date, please see below answers to some of the questions you may have:
Q: What is the current status with the school? When will it re-open?
A preliminary site visit took place on Tuesday 23 Oct, which resulted in the immediate closure of our schools for safety reasons. A further site visit occurred Thursday 25 Oct with the Builder WBS, independent structural engineers and DES (Dept Education).
Solutions and contingency plans are being co-ordinated by the Building Unit of the Department of Education & Skills in Athlone.
It is hopeful that the ground floors of both schools will be operational soon after mid-term. Preparatory work will be conducted on Monday 29 Oct with a view to commencing building work on Tuesday 30 Oct and completing ground floor works during the mid-term break.
After the mid-term break, some classes will have to be accommodated off-site. A proposal for temporary accommodation is being finalised by DES (Deparment of Education & Skills) for the School Principals.
Q: What about building work on the other floors? Is the building work temporary or permanent? How long will this work take?
The DES is working on a solution that facilitates the school being partially re-opened for children ASAP. Ground floor work will be completed first, followed by the other floors.
This building work is to ensure the school buildings are structurally sound. If more work is required, it will be completed over the summer when the school is closed.
The DES estimates that the current work to re-open the school fully will take weeks rather than months. The current estimate is 5-6 weeks.
Q: My child is in Setanta and any disruption for them is distressing. What is being done for them?
Ground floor work is being prioritised to ensure children in Setanta can return to their classrooms and minimise disruption to their routine. We are working on a strategy to accommodate children who are integrated into mainstream for part of the day.
Q: What about the emotional welfare of our children? This has been very stressful for them.
The DES will engage with the National Education Psychologists (NEPS) for guidance and support and liaise with the School Principals.
Q: Why does temporary accommodation need to be found? Are pre-fabs a possible solution?
The ground floor of each school will not cater for all the children. The DES has also advised that there wouldn’t be enough room on-site for pre-fabs to cater for the rest of the children. Pre-fabs require sanitation and other utilities, as well as strict planning regulations.
The DES is in contact with possible locations in the vicinity and will revert with suitable proposals for temporary accommodation to School Principals and parents.
Q How will temporary accommodation work? How will I get my child to school? I have children who may be going to different locations? What about the welfare of my child in a new location?
The DES has said they want alternative arrangements to resemble the normal school day as much as possible in these circumstances. This is to accommodate children, staff and parents who have work commitments.
School transport will be arranged from the school buildings to temporary off-site locations, so there will be one drop-off for parents.
Once a temporary off-site location has been identified, the Principals will work with DES on processes and procedures to ensure the safety and supervision of our children at all times.
Q: What about the Community Centre?
An examination of the Community Centre is being undertaken, but the same structural issues are not expected as it was a different design build. We would hope the Community Centre will feature in some of the interim accommodation plans, where possible and with their cooperation.
Q: When will we know more about the arrangements for the school re-opening after mid-term?
The DES is working on finding solutions and contingency plans for Tyrrelstown and will continue to work with the School Principals to find the best arrangements for children, parents and staff.
Of course, the above is not an exhaustive list of issues involved but, hopefully it gives you a general context to what has been discussed with the Department up to now. Regardless of what is notified in the media, please be aware that the Board of Management will only instruct the reopening of our current building once it has received the necessary assurances from the Department of Education.
Please continue to check our website for any updates.