RENEWED calls have been made to Waterford Council to reflect provision for an additional Tramore secondary school in the new County Development Plan. Last week it was confirmed by local Fianna Fáil Councillor Eamon Quinlan that the former CBS site on St. Otteran’s Terrace had been placed back on the market by the Edmund Rice School’s Trust.
In 2019, this newspaper reported that a provisional offer was on the table from a local developer with a residential development in mind. This was subsequently abandoned last year and the site is again for sale. Cllr Quinlan has been vocal regarding a campaign for some time, to secure a new secondary school for the town of Tramore and having been in contact with the Trust, believes this is a unique opportunity for the local authorities to acquire the site.
“Tramore is now the largest urban centre in the county after the city and has only one secondary school. Pupil numbers of almost 1,200 mean that not only is there severe congestion and pressure on local services but especially in this era of Covid 19, having such large numbers wedged into a single school means we are overly reliant on one facility,” said Cllr. Quinlan.
School League Tables
The secondary school league tables were published earlier this month. They showed Árdscoil na Mara as having the second largest sitting of Leaving Certificate students in 2020 in Ireland, with 214 students registered to sit their examinations last June. The largest Leaving Certificate class was Gorey Community School who had 219 registered to sit the state examinations.
By comparison, De La Salle college had a Leaving Certificate class of 139, St. Angela’s had 143 and the Abbey Community College had 164 students registered to sit the examinations in June 2020.
“We are faced with a unique opportunity here. We need a new school and there is one for sale at the heart of the town,” said Cllr. Quinlan. “If we don’t snap it up we will only have to build a new one down the line on the edge of the town. The Trust want rid of it and given how the hall along with the school on the site was built and maintained from local community fundraising, the whole thing should be going back to the community.”
History of the site
In 2014, the former CBS site became derelict when Tramore secondary schools amalgamated, in one build of eight nationally under the Schools Bundle 3 Public Private Partnership project.
At present, the site is zoned for educational and community purposes and, as such, the site has been described as trapped in limbo, with no large community organisation able to take it over, and no commercial or residential development being able to make the area work financially. It is believed this is down to the fact that the school hall will have to remain in local ownership, as well as the Council’s insistence that part of the site is retained for expansion by one of the local primary schools.
Cllr. Quinlan has emphasised his belief in this potential move, and credits Árdscoil na Mara for catering for the rapidly expanding population of 12,000 people. “This is a smart move and could be achieved for a fraction of the cost of building from scratch. The current secondary school servicing the town, Ardscoil na Mara, can’t continue to shoulder the burden. Tramore will continue to rapidly expand in population numbers in the coming years,” said Cllr. Quinlan. “While I know the Council would be adverse to shouldering the full financial burden, we can be the leaders here, in getting the Department of Education involved, to agree to bring it back into public ownership and pay to design a new state of the art secondary school serviced by local primary schools. I know there is already a lot of sympathy to such a way forward by the Executive. ”
Any actions following this path are expected to take several years. Cllr Quinlan described the idea that the Council would allow such an opportunity to pass as an “unforgiveable betrayal of the educational needs of the children in Tramore”.
Chief Executive of Waterford Council, Michael Walsh is understood to be in active discussion with the Department of Education regarding development plans and future needs in the area. He has committed to discussion the former CBS site in this context.