“Monasterevin is the town that the politicians completely forgot about... It’s the town that politicians do not give a damn about.”
These were the forceful words of one local mother, Trisha Kelly, at a packed meeting on the future of a new school building for St Paul’s Secondary School last Wednesday night, February 17.
St Paul’s is bursting at the seams. Nine out of the school’s 19 classrooms are prefabs in need of repair, and there are just three boys’ toilets for 160 students.
It occupies a tiny 1.9 acre site in the middle of Monasterevin town. It has no green area for its students, and is entirely dependent on the goodwill of local GAA and soccer clubs for pitch space. Its janitorial staff are constantly dealing with the aftermath of burst pipes, leaks and breakins, and the school’s insurance company has just informed it that it is enforcing a E5,000 on each claim St Paul’s makes.
In the words of principal Brian Bergin. “When you stand on a corridor and the students are moving en masse, you can feel the whole building is like a mini-trampoline.”
The meeting in the school last week was attended by independent Paddy Kennedy, Fianna Fail’s Sean O Fearghail and Sean Power, Martin Miley of Fine Gael and Vivian Cummins of the Greens. Clifford Reid, independent, and Jason Turner of Sinn Fein sent their apologies. Local councillors including Tony O’Donnell, Suzanne Power and Fiona O’Loughlin were also present.
The Department of Education has acknowledged that the condition of the school is affecting the amount of pupils who go there.
“I see students and parents here tonight who remember being promised a new school. I apologise but I was misled as much as you were,” principal Brian Bergin told the assembly.
A gas explosion in 2000 destroyed seven rooms, including the science laboratory, home economics room, two classrooms, the library and a lecture room. These facilities were replaced with prefabs which are coming to the end of their natural life. In 2004, a fire left the woodwork room badly damaged.
The provision of a new school was agreed in 2004, and it was announced the following year that the new premises would be built under the Public Private Partnership programme. The new secondary school in Kildare town is being built under a similar scheme.
A site for the new school, which would include a new building and playing pitches, was identified on the grounds of Moore Abbey. This site is included in last year’s town development plan.
However, plans for the Moore Abbey site have stalled, due to confusion over whether or not Kildare County Council will pay for playing pitches, and who will foot the cost for the access road.
There was also uncertainty expressed at the meeting at whether or not Moore Abbey management is still interested in selling the land.
In 2012, St Paul’s expects to have 336 pupils on the rolls, which will fill it to capacity.
“In 2013 we will be turning away pupils from St Paul’s, not because we want to, but because we can not take them,” said Mr Bergin.
Parents present said they were sick of their children being treated as second class citizens.
Local Parish Priest Fr Liam Merrigan, who has been active on the Board of Management committee lobbying for the new school, said, to applause, “When I gt through Athy and other places and see what they have got, I am ashamed... those who shout the loudest are heard.”
Eamon Dunne, himself a past pupil with a child due to attend St Paul’s, was one of several parents who spoke at the meeting. He said: “since we lost the local councillors, we have not had one good thing in this town. We want Monasterevin people to deal with Monasterevin.”
Mary Moore, who is also on the Parents’ Council, spoke of health and safety concerns, saying that the toilets were in a “desperate” state.
It was agreed at the meeting that, after the General Election, the school’s Board of Management would write to the newly elected TDs and local councillors and invite them, and locals, to form a lobby group to work for a new school