Hopes are high that Claregalway could have a Community College by 2013 but many factors, including getting a site and jumping the hurdles of any planning objections, will determine if this deadline is met.
A Community College has been mooted for several years to cater for 850 to 1,000 students in an area of rapid population growth.
Campaigners met with local politicians in the Claregalway Hotel on Monday the 20th June last and the matter was also raised at a meeting of County Galway VEC (Vocational Education Committee) earlier that day.
Speakers at both meetings expressed the hope that enrolment in the Claregalway School could begin in September 2013.
The meeting heard that a letter from Labour TD Derek Nolan had indicated that the school would open in September 2013. But it was hoped that this could be confirmed in writing by the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn as soon as possible.
Dr Paddy Tobin, Chairperson of the Claregalway Secondary Level Parents’ Action Committee, said that while they were aiming for an opening date of September 2013 there were very conscious of problems which would have to be surmounted.
Earlier on Monday at the VEC meeting Councillor Jarlath McDonagh said it was time to reactivate the campaign.
As secondary schools in Athenry and Oranmore are trying to cope with huge enrolment members it is vital that the Claregalway Community College becomes a reality.
Chairman Pat Gilmore emphasised that the VEC were the front-runner to be the patron of the proposed school.
“At meetings in the past the parents had indicated that it was not just the wish of the majority, but of the totality of parents in the area, that Co. Galway VEC should be patrons of the school,” he said.
Sean Duffy added that the VEC are very enthusiastic about being patron of the proposed Claregalway Community College but this will also have to be put through a formal process by the Department of Education.
“The next priority is that the patronage be sorted out and while the wishes of both the parents and the VEC is that we should be involved, the Department must agree to this, and only time will tell if and when this will happen,” he added.
Councillor Liam Carroll said he understood that a number of sites were being looked at for the new school and the meeting was told that seven people had indicated their interest in providing a site.
But when Cllr Michael Connolly said they should seek a meeting with Minister of State Ciaran Cannon about this and other issues CEO Joe McDonagh said that it would be early September before such a meeting could take place.
“The main priority now is that we direct all our efforts towards patronage of the new school,” he said.
Joe McDonagh and Sean Duffy were the representatives of Co. Galway VEC at the meeting of the parents’ committee in Claregalway on Monday night.
“We have got great assistance also from Co Galway Vocational Education Comittee and of course there is huge support in Claregalway and surrounding areas for the school,” says Dr Tobin.
The committee say they have over 900 pre-enrolled for a second-level school. Over 570 parents have all filled out endorsement forms to send their children to the school as soon as it opens according to Dr Tobin.
However, the possibility of the school being located in an empty unit at the Claregalway Industrial Park now seems more remote. This had been suggested at a Co Galway VEC meeting in May 2009. But due to the falling price of sites, and of construction costs, it might now be more practical to start working on a permanent site rather than having to modify an industrial unit and then move out to another site later.
The committee says there are six primary schools within three to four miles of Claregalway with 1,100 children and another five primary schools within five to six miles with a further 800 children, a total of 1,900.