New Gaelscoil build on time and on budget

PLANS for a new multi-million Irish medium school build in Strabane are on track, with work to get underway in 2022.

The development was disclosed at a sitting of Stormont's Education Committee last Wednesday where papers reported that the plans for Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh are on time and on budget.

According to officials from the Department of Education (DE), procurement for the new build is due to take place in the next quarter before December 2021.

Construction planned to start by June 2022, with work expected to take up to a year.

Costing between £4m and £6m and with an opening date in autumn 2023, it will mark the beginning of a new chapter for the provision of Irish language education in the town.

A proposal for the construction of a new seven classroom primary school and nursery school was given the unanimous approval of Derry City and Strabane District Council's Planning Committee when it came before members last December.

The school and Naiscoil an tSratha Bain will relocate to the greenfield site on Strahans Road, just off Strabane bypass, where the finished project will include hard and soft play areas, car parking, landscaping and access arrangements.

Currently located in temporary buildings in Ballycolman Estate where 150 primary school children and 26 nursery school children are enrolled, the committee were told the school's facilities are longer fit for purpose.

The new school build will have a capacity for 176 to 205 primary school pupils and 26 nursery school pupils.

Speaking at the time of the project's approval, school principal Máire Ní Dhochartaigh said it brought great 'joy and delight' for the school and wider community.

"The rapid growth of our school over the years is evidence of the support and faith that the people have and had in us," she said.

"We are still fondly called 'the wee Irish school'. I'm quite often told that 'the wee school's doing great down there'.

"It's as if our school are the pets of the town and everyone delights and takes pleasure and pride in our achievements.

"Indeed, from the start our schools have been linked to the community and we continue to try to strengthen and build these relationships at all levels.

"People in Strabane helped us to get to where we are now and they rightly should rejoice in the progression of our new school."

Welcoming the development, West Tyrone SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan, said it's a good news story for the town.

Mr McCrossan, who is a member of the Education Committee, said: "I am pleased that this much needed new Irish medium school in Strabane is currently on time and on budget.

"Strabane needs this new Irish medium school desperately.

“The progress that the Irish medium education sector has made is remarkable and a real credit to those who have pioneered its development and had the vision for an immersive approach to education.

“All this has been achieved with meagre resources but an abundance of creativity.

“I look forward to seeing this new school hopefully opening in autumn 2023.”

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