“DON’T move our school” is the message hundreds of parents, staff and local representatives wanted to get across when they staged a rally in Ballyfermot this week.
The community of De La Salle National School is resisting the Archdiocese of Dublin’s plan to amalgamate it with other schools at the Dominican site in lower Ballyfermot.
Currently, three schools are on this site and, according to Cllr Daithi Doolan (SF), the proposal is to see the four, including De La Salle, amalgamated into two.
He said: “It is a state-of-the-art school that anyone would be proud of. It is modern … fully equipped with loads of land. It also caters for children with autism – that is going to be lost. We are talking nearly 1,000 pupils [from all four schools] squeezed in [the new site]. We want to know why are they doing this, what is involved, why they are not engaged with parents and not investigating alternatives.”
Martin Walsh, of the school’s parents’ association, told The Gazette that support for the rally showed no one wanted the move.
He said: “We don’t want to lose the facilities they have in that school. It would be sad to see all that go. They are already using prefabs to accommodate them all already [on the Dominican site] and now want to add another 300 pupils.”
Parents were told last November that the school would close this month, but this was later changed to August 2015.
Walsh said consultation with parents and representatives was inadequate. “They are saying the consultation process is happening but we have yet to meet anyone involved in [it].
“We just want to keep pressure on. Pupils don’t want to move, parents don’t want it to move and teachers don’t see it as a good idea and the community is dead set against closing the oldest and best school in the area,” he said.
In a statement, the archdiocese said it had been consulting stakeholders in education in Ballyfermot concerning the four schools since 2008 and that “falling pupil numbers” meant it was “not sustainable” to have so many schools in separate buildings.
It also stated: “The De La Salle order has stated clearly that it is no longer in a position to act as trustees of the school in Ballyfermot into the future.
“A specialised project team from the archdiocese has been working with people in Ballyfermot for more than a year to help guide a process of amalgamation.
“There have been regular meetings with principals of all four schools and the boards of management – including parent, staff, patron and community nominees, with the latest taking place just over a week ago.”
De La Salle’s Brother Christopher Collier said: “It is not a closure of the school. [It] is just moving to another site.”
When asked why moving the facility was seen as the only option, he said: “We provided a building for the school and it is a great school, but the numbers have come down.
“[The archdiocese] are looking to consolidate Catholic education and relocating it to another site is probably the way for the future.”
At the time of going to print, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was scheduled to meet the education committee in the Dail this week.