Waterford TD John Deasy has been told that a major extension at Árdscoil na Mara, Tramore is on track, pending a planning decision from the Council, which is due soon.
The Fine Gael deputy tabled a Dáil question asking the Minister for Education and Skills to provide an update on plans to provide an additional nine classrooms and other accommodation works.
Replacing the CBS and Stella Maris secondary schools, the €15m co-educational campus was completed and opened in March 2014 under the Department’s Public Private Partnership programme.
However, it soon became clear that capacity couldn’t cater for the numbers seeking to enrol in Tramore, with the school’s population having grown beyond the 1,000 students originally envisaged.
There are currently 1,170 students (up from 1,132 in 2016-17) with 1,350 projected once an extension is in place. A 2019 opening is being targeted. With a principal and three deputies, teaching staff numbers will increase over the same period from 63 initially to 70 now, and an anticipated 79.
Replying to Deputy Deasy, Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed: “It is my Department’s intention to provide an extension to the school to meet the demand for additional school accommodation in the area.”
A planning application to proceed with the extension was lodged with Waterford City and County Council last June by contractors BAM Building Ltd, in partnership with the Department.
“My Department has since responded to a request for further information from the Council in that respect,” Mr Bruton said. This information was provided a week before Christmas and a decision is due this week, January 24.
The Minister added: “Subject to the decision of the Council on the matter, it is our intention to then proceed to the final stages of preparing the project for construction and delivery.”
The proposed development would involve modifications and extensions to the existing school building and the construction of a 3-storey extension and additional accessible car-parking spaces.
One of the concerns the Council raised in its request for additional information was traffic management — an issue since the school opened and one which Deasy repeatedly took up with the local authority and senior gardaí, following contacts from staff, parents and residents.
MHL Consulting Engineers carried out a traffic impact report for the Department. To determine expected traffic generation, it surveyed traffic patterns and volumes at four junctions in the immediate vicinity of the school in early October.
It has advised that with better sequencing of traffic lights, no road network layout changes are required to facilitate the expansion. The reduction of cars parked on the road outside the school — something school management have worked to improve with staff — will ensure traffic is able to flow at peak times, its report says. The school also stressed its commitment to encouraging alternative means of transport and initiatives to relieve congestion.