Home News Education Serious issues with sewage and heating as new school sought for Abbeyleix

Serious issues with sewage and heating as new school sought for Abbeyleix

Abbeyleix school

Students in Scoil Mhuire in Abbeyleix are having to endure blocked toilets, the smell of sewage, a leaking roof and damp and cold conditions as the school principal haS urged the Department of Education to proceed with a new build.

The conditions that students and teachers have to learn and work in were highlighted at an INTO public meeting in the Midlands Park Hotel on Wednesday of this week which was attended by four local TDs and a number of General Election candidates.

Parent Ciara Phelan said that students were having to wear their coats in class to stay warm, that the roof was leaking and that one young student was using the toilet when it overflowed.

She also described the smell of sewage. All the Laois TDs – Charlie Flanagan, Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley – have visited the school and met with principal Aidan McEvoy.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, the TDs all agreed that the conditions were “appalling” and “shocking”. The meeting was also attended by Deputy Carol Nolan (Independent), Pauline Flanagan (Fianna Fail), Noel Tuohy (Labour) and Stephen Tynan (People Before Profit).

Aidan McEvoy, who has been principal since 1996, recently wrote to parents.

“As principal I can no longer say to you as parents that I am happy with the physical environment of our school,” he wrote.

“We need a new building and that is the bottom line of the situation.”

Speaking to LaoisToday, Mr McEvoy said that the school was built in 1983 with a sports hall (funded by the community) opened in 2009 and three-unit ASD unit opened in 2018.

He said there are three main problems in the school: the flat roof that is no longer fixable, decaying sewage pipes underground and a lack of insulation.

Because of the newer buildings he says it would make more sense to build a new modular 16-classroom school on the adjacent 2.5 acre site that was given free of charge to the school by the local Brigidene convent.

The school received a department grant in 1997 to re-cover the roof with the contractor saying at the time that they would get ten years from it.

“But there have been a number of leaks in the past five to ten years. We’ve been trying to fix it as we go along but the cracks in the concrete can be no longer fixed.

“We have 12 mainstream classes and the each has a double toilet unit – one for boys and one for girls. The problem isn’t the sanitary units, it is because there is a decay in the pipework below the ground.

“And because of the leakage in the pipes the smells are coming up. As well as that the staff toilets are a disgrace.”

On the lack of insulation in the concrete walls, he says at the moment the heating is on in the school every morning from 7.30am to 2.30pm.

“We’re going through 500 litres of oil a week but the school is not warm. There is no insulation in the roof. One part of the ceiling is exposed and there is one part of the ceiling where there is just a bit of plasterboard stuck to a concrete block.”

Mr McEvoy explained that that a preliminary engineer’s report has estimated that bringing the school up to standard will cost in the region of €1million – and that a new build would be more efficient.

“Given we have a free site, we have our hall and the ASD Unit already, we could be a cheap option for the department,” he said.

At the moment there are 316 pupils, including 11 from the nearby Hibernian Direct Provision Centre, 23 teachers, four bus escorts, secretary, caretaker and 11 Special Needs Assistants. After First Ireland Spirits, the school is Abbeyleix’s biggest employer.

At one stage, there were up to 350 students in the school but newer facilities in the two other schools in the parish – the Church of Ireland Abbeyleix South and Ballyroan – have seen their numbers grow.

“We have contacted the department, we sent in our application in January 2019 but I don’t think the department have decided what to do.

“I’m not carrying a torch for any of the politicians but Charlie Flanagan, Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley have been very helpful.

“We’re not trying to rabble rouse but we need a new building for students and staff and we have to get this kickstarted.”

SEE ALSO – Local primary school adds two new ASD classrooms which will be open in September


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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.