Prefabs have been the bane of many national schools in Cavan for years but there was welcome news for three such schools last week when it was revealed that they are to receive a grant to install new permanent classrooms.
Two national schools in Cavan town, St Felim's and Crubany, as well as Knocktemple NS in Virginia will be among the 200 state-of-the-art permanent classrooms to be built across the country.
In St Felim's, they have been using prefabs that are over 30 years old and according to principal Barry Tierney they are not suitable for teaching. "Two of the prefabs are used for main stream classrooms, while two others are used as classrooms and support/resource rooms."
Mr Tierney pointed out that prefabs are a burden on the tax payer and added that in some schools they are paying €40,000 a year on rent. He says this is a total waste of money that could be put to better use in education.
"This announcement by the Eduction Minister is most welcome and we are delighted to be one of the 200," Mr Tierney told The Anglo-Celt. He added that prefabs, especially old ones, are not a suitable environment in which to teach. While they serve a purpose on a short-term basis, they should not be in use for 30 years, he added.
Knocktemple project ongoing
Declan Cooney, principal of Knocktemple, said that any improvement to the school was appreciated. "We are a little lucky as we only have our prefab since 2007. It contains the special class, as well as the resource people," he said. Prior to that, the school had another prefab for two years.
Mr Cooney claimed that they had raised the issue with the department in the past so to get the green light for a new permanent classroom was great news, he added.
He said that Knocktemple had an ongoing building project, which is almost complete, and would see a new classroom, general purpose room and offices built. "We hope to have it completed for September," stated Mr Cooney.
€30k on prefabs in Crubany
Crubany NS has been spending about €30,000 a year renting prefabs since 2008.
School principal Antonia Hayes said they have as many pupils in the prefabs as they do the school building itself.
"This is wonderful news for us." At the moment there are 157 pupils along with ten of a staff in the school and five of the staff are in prefabs, Ms Hayes told the Anglo Celt. The first prefab came in 2006, another in 2007 and the last a year later.
In one of the prefabs there is a classroom plus two support rooms with three teachers. "Over the years we have spent crazy money on rent," Ms Hayes adds.
Cavan Fine Gael TD, Joe O'Reilly, claimed that for many years a huge amount of money had been spent on renting prefab classrooms, which could have been put towards other vital education services. "This government has delivered on its promise to get rid of expensive prefab classrooms," he stated.
During the Celtic Tiger era his party had consistently called for this serious waste of money which was spent on renting prefabs to be addressed. A total of €35m has been allocated for the new classrooms and it is estimated the 6,000 pupils will benefit, Deputy O'Reilly added.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's Brendan Smith, welcoming the news for the schools concerned, said that it marked a continuation of Fianna Fáil's strategy in government since 2008 of reducing the use of prefabs in schools and using grant aid to build permanent classrooms.
"The cost of schools renting temporary accommodation at primary and post primary level was cut from €53m in 2008 to €39m in 2009 and €29m in 2010," he said.
Deputy Smith also pointed out that the Fianna Fáil government gave 557 schools the option to build a permanent classroom in 2009.