An estimated twenty children have been refused a place in the new secondary school in Claregalway with capacity full before it even opens its doors on a new permanent facility.
Coláiste Bhaile Chláir (CBC) opened in 2013 on a temporary site in the Claregalway Corporate Park with 174 first year pupils. That jumped to 200 in 2014, with almost the same number enrolled for last year.
However the figure has been capped at 180 first year students for this September, according to parents. That has left at least ten students in the catchment area and a further ten just outside it bitterly disappointed not to be accepted into the school which has won national plaudits for its use of technology.
A group of those parents are organising a campaign to increase the capacity of the school to ensure those in the vicinity can attend.
Wilma Penman, whose daughter is in the final year of Corrandulla National School, said she was among the many parents who attended meetings in support of a secondary school in Claregalway in recent years.
“My daughter was in senior infants and we were hearing horror stories about children right up to the day before they were to start secondary school having no idea where they were going to go. Are we back to square one again?” she asked.
“When we got the letter to say she was refused we were floored to be honest. They’ve been prepared with the expectation of going to Claregalway—they are getting so anxious about it, they had made plans to go with their friends.”
As they live in the catchment area of Claregalway, she believes her daughter would not be entitled to avail of the school bus scheme to other schools.
“After being refused for Claregalway, we could find ourselves at the bottom of the pile for Headford and town as well as they have to accommodate their official catchment areas. It’s so worrying.”
Some parents have appealed the decision to the board of management and the patron, the Galway Roscommon Training and Education Board (GRTEB). Those outside the catchment will have a more difficult case to argue.
“We could fight the quick fight and hope they’ll allow our ten children but what’s going to happen next year? What about the other ten? It’s only going to get worse, the population is increasing. To know a new school is already not going to meet the needs of community is terrible.
“This is creasing ripples for all the children further down the line, not just ours. This has the potential to be an act of extreme folly which will blight the inauguration of a long awaited new school and disappoint so many families in the community for years to come.”
Coláiste Bhaile Chláir opened in a temporary building in Claregalway’s Corporate Park. The school is projected to have 1,000 pupils by the time the first cohort of students sit their leaving certificate exams.
Priority is given to students who have a sibling in the school and secondly to the children of staff members. After that places are given to students who live inside Bus Éireann’s “extreme bus transport points” and thereafter students who live outside those points but attend a primary school within those points.
A 23-classroom extension was approved to the temporary building, with the permanent one due to open this September on the same site after planning permission was granted for a two-storey building with seventeen specialist classrooms, six general classrooms, a library/resource room, as well as 45 car parking spaces.
The school—which has replaced text books with tablets—was selected as a 2014–15 Microsoft Showcase School for its excellence in using mobile and cloud technology to better prepare students for success in the workplace—one of 150 worldwide.
Teachers Lara Dabbagh and Gareth Callan have also been selected as expert educators under the innovative schools programme, joining a group of 800 teachers worldwide acknowledged for their skills in the classroom.
The Connacht Tribune was unable to reach principal Alan Mongey for comment.