Balbriggan parents want answers in wake of school building ‘shambles’

by Sylvia Pownall

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Parents have expressed concerns over safety issues at Ardgillan College in Balbriggan after major structural issues forced it to close last Friday.

Part of the school was shut down immediately after a report found “significant” faults with almost 200 transition year students told to stay off campus until November 5.

Now parents whose children are still attending classes are worried that the rest of the building could be unsafe, and they are demanding reassurances from officials.

Barbara McMahon, whose son is in third year, told Dublin Gazette: “Why was that building signed off on in 2009? The problem was with phase one but I don’t know if the new block has even been tested or not.

“We had the gun hoax two weeks ago and everyone thought that was very funny, which it wasn’t. What’s even less funny is now you find out that a fire and safety audit says the building is actually unsafe because of structural issues.

“What’s going to happen when the transition year students are due back? What about students in exam years with all this stress and upheaval?

“There is huge uncertainty and it’s not fair on the kids or the parents. We want to know if the rest of the building has been checked and given the all-clear.”

The Department of Education is now planning urgent assessments of 30 schools built in the past 10 years by the same firm, including Rush and Lusk Educate Together.

It has also initiated legal proceedings against the Tyrone-based construction company, Western Building Systems, in relation to four schools including Balbriggan and Tyrrelstown ET.

Engineers carrying out fire remediation work at Ardgillan Community College on Friday discovered that ties fixing the exterior walls to interior walls were inadequate.

Cllr Malachy Quinn (SF) described the situation as “a shambles” and expressed concern that students would now have to be taught in corridors and cafeterias with out-of-commission prefabs brought back on site.

On Monday students were escorted to retrieve belongings from their lockers in the old block which is now closed. They are being taught in the same classroom all day rather than moving from room to room for different subjects.

In an update on its website on Monday, school principal Michael O’Leary thanked parents for their patience advising that more accommodation was being organised.

Sinn Fein TD Louise O’Reilly raised the issue in the Dail on Tuesday evening as it emerged that Tyrrelstown Educate Together NS and St Luke’s NS in Mulhuddart were closing due to safety concerns.

She said: “The insecurity and instability which this has caused is enormous. It is absolutely essential that alternative accommodation for the students at Ardgillan Community College is immediately provided.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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