Posted by Tom Gilmore, Tuam Herald in News.

Two teachers at Scoil Mhuire Vocational School, Athenry, who are both members of Co Galway Vocational Committee have expressed fears that the new Coláiste Bhaile Chláir due to open next September, will take students from their school unless the new building that has been sanctioned for the town is built.

The monthly meeting of the VEC was told by CEO Joe McDonagh that 156 first-year students have already enrolled for Coláiste Bhaile Chláir.

While VEC members and Athenry teachers Liam McDonagh and Seamus Hynes congratulated the Claregalway school on the high numbers that have already enrolled they said that a promised new school to replace the current one in Athenry is also urgently needed.

Over the years the Athenry school has prided itself on being the biggest Vocational School in the West, with consistently good results by students in State examinations.

But while a new school is planned to cater for the large numbers, the building has been delayed because of difficulties securing a suitable site in Athenry.

“It is good to see numbers exceeding expectations for first-year students for the Claregalway school, and while not begrudging them in any way,we also need action on our new school.

“All primary schools now have state-of-the art facilities and it is important that all second-level schools have likewise,” said Seamus Hynes.

His teaching colleague and fellow VEC member Liam McDonagh agreed with this and said they were also waiting for good news on a new vocational school for Athenry.

He congratulated the new Claregalway school and its recently appointed principal, but he said it would have an impact on the number of students going to Athenry.

However, Cllr Jarlath McDonagh said he did not think it would have any massive impact on those going to school in Athenry as Claregalway had a huge young population and a lot of those who will be going to the new school in the village would otherwise have to go to schools in Galway City.

“Due to the problems driving to and from from the city, the parents of those new students will be pleased to have them attend the new Claregalway school.

“It is a tribute to the excellent presentation made by the CEO at a meeting for parents and guardians in Claregalway some time ago and to the more recent efforts of new principal Alan Mongey that so many students now want to go to the new school in the village,” said Cllr. McDonagh.

Ballinasloe’s Cllr Carmel Greally said the VEC needed to take note of what the Athenry representatives were saying and as there was now extra competition for student numbers in the area, it was vital that Athenry got a new school building as quickly as possible.

But Cllr Michael Connolly said that if it had not been for the good work of the CEO, another educational group could have got patronage of the Claregalway school and they needed to push for the completion of both schools as soon as possible.

Charles Mitchell, from the accounts department of the VEC, said the new Claregalway school would not just impact on Athenry but on different schools in a wider catchment area.

“It will take students from schools in Galway City, Tuam, Headford, Oranmore and Athenry and we need to be positive about it,” he said.

CEO Joe McDonagh said the new principal at the Claregalway school would be moving to a temporary office in Claregalway Community Centre very soon and both the Department of Education and the Co Council were “working through” any planning issues regarding the new facility in Claregalway Corporate Park.

“As recently as this morning the Department were confident that any planning issues will be sorted by next week and with work on the interim building due to commence in April, we hope to have it ready by August 26th,” said the CEO.

He added that the first meeting of the board of management of the new Claregalway school will take place on March 4 at the VEC offices in Athenry.

The CEO said he would be more pro active than ever in securing a site for the new building for Athenry Vocational School.  He said he fully understood the frustration and lack of patience of so many as they waited for the new school to accommodate 1,000 students in Athenry promised last year.

The site that was suggested was not suitable but they were now looking at other sites that had been suggested.

“The Athenry school is in resurgent mode and has been for some time and from now until I leave my post as CEO here, my priorty will be to ensure that Athenry gets is new school.

“I have been harping on about it with the Department and the County Council regarding the provision of a site as soon as possible.”

The CEO said that from figures given to them by Bus Eireann, it seemed that numbers going to schools in Tuam and Galway City would be most affected by the new Claregalway School.

Chairman Pat Gilmore added that irrespective of the success of the Claregalway schol, Gairm Scoil Mhuire in Athenry is also entitled to its new school building as soon as possible.