Minister for Education Norma Foley has provided an update on the status of the new building for Kolbe Special School in Portlaoise.
The Fianna Fail TD spoke in the Dail recently following a question on the matter by Sinn Fein’s Brian Stanley.
In February, planning permission was granted for a brand new building on the Block Road in Portlaoise and which is on the site between the existing Kolbe school building and the Cuisle Centre.
The planning permission for this new school granted by Laois County Council is for 8 general classrooms a GP hall, specialist educational spaces, administration areas, circulation areas and mini bus drop-off spaces and all necessary external play, sports and educational areas.
Deputy Brian Stanley urged Minister Foley to ensure that the children and staff would not have to spend another winter in their current facility.
He said: “I cannot emphasise enough the need for a new building. At present, this special school, which deals with children with very complex needs and serious levels of disability, has only one permanent bricks-and-mortar classroom.
“Everything else is prefabricated and some of it is in a very poor condition, not totally weatherproof, it is not soundproof and some of the prefabs are just too small, very difficult to heat and, with the current situation regarding energy costs, that causes difficulties.
“It is really important that we get it done and that the funding provided is sufficient to cater for any building inflation there may be because, unfortunately, costs are not going down. It is important that there is sufficient funding for it.
“I ask the Minister to work hard on this so that the children and the staff do not spend another winter in the accommodation that they are in, if that is possible. We need to try to move on with it.’’
Minister Foley said: “The project is currently at an advanced stage of architectural planning, stage 2b detailed design, which includes the application for all statutory consents, including planning permission, disability access certification and fire safety certification, in addition to the preparation of tender documentation.
“To expedite the project, the pre-qualification of contractors is being carried out in parallel with the completion and review of stage 2b, and the design team was authorised to commence the process just last week.
“Upon receipt, review and approval of the stage 2b submission, completion of the pre-qualification of contractors, and once the design team are satisfied that their tender documents are in order and comply with all departmental and building regulation requirements, the project for Kolbe Special School can be progressed to tender and award of contract.
“A tender stage normally takes between six to eight months subject to no issues arising. I will articulate clearly that the Department is fully committed to getting this project delivered as quickly as possible and advanced as a priority.
“I acknowledge the Deputy’s commitment to the delivery of this project. He referenced planning permission, and fire safety certification is pending from the local authority, whose role we acknowledge.
“The design team is currently working on the tender documents.
“Equally, to expedite the project, pre-qualification for contractors, which is important, is being carried out in parallel with the completion and review of stage 2b.
“Again, as the Deputy acknowledged, the design team has been authorised to commence the process last week.
“The manner in which we are as much as possible taking a twin-track approach underlines our commitment.’’