Minister for Education Joe McHugh visited Kolbe Special School in Portlaoise yesterday.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister of Education Joe McHugh, Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley, Orla Mahon Principal of Kolbe and representatives from the Board of Management were present.
Minister Flanagan said: “At my invitation, I was delighted that Minister Joe Mc Hugh visited the Kolbe Special school earlier this week. I felt it was really important that the Minister visited the school facilities, met with staff and pupils and saw first hand the real need for the building works to commence.
“Earlier this year, it was announced that Kolbe Special School was one of 17 schools that was to be included in the Department’s ADAPT 2 (Accelerated Delivery of Architectural Planning & Tendering) Programme. The Department has completed the appointment of a Project manager and the Design Team are working with the School.
“The new building will be located on a greenfield site acquired from the HSE. The project will deliver a single storey building of 2,413 square metres providing 8 classrooms, a general purpose room, library and resource area.
“I wish to pay tribute to the Staff and Board of Management who have been working in challenging and difficult conditions for the past number of years. Despite this, there is a warm atmosphere in the school with devoted staff who nurture and care for their pupils.
“I wish to thank the Minister for visiting the school. I will continue to work with Minister Mc Hugh and the Department of Education to ensure that the construction of the school commences without further delay.”
Speaking about the visit, TD Brian Stanley said he was happy with how it went.
He said: “I have asked successive Education Ministers including Ruari Quinn and Richard Bruton to visit this facility.
“Last January in the Dáil I invited Minister McHugh to come and see for himself at first hand the difficult conditions that staff were working in and students in Kolbe were enduring.
“On our tour of the school yesterday, Minister McHugh had the opportunity to meet with staff, students and some of the parents and could not but be impressed by the dedication of all concerned to the welfare of the children.
“He also got to see at first hand the very restricted facilities that are available for the 40 pupils and the staff.
“One of the main problems in Kolbe is that there is a huge amount of equipment needed in the school to facilitate these children with disabilities and there is simply not the space.
“The other major problem is that 80% of the school is prefabs, many of which are too small and not in good condition.
“During our meeting with the staff and board of management representatives the Minister committed to having the new building expedited as quickly as possible.
“The school is in what’s termed the ‘Adapt Programme’ which means that it has an external project manager and is now in design stage.
“For my part I intend to continue working to ensure that the new school is constructed on the Block Road as soon as possible.”