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£62k on repairs for – and the cost is still rising

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St Columba’s principal Ann Lindsay and teacher Claire Coyle pictured in one of the school’s classrooms which has had large trusses installed to support the ailing roof.

NEW figures obtained by the Strabane Chronicle appear to epitomise the “patchwork” repair approach a local school is having to endure.

Following a Freedom of Information request to the Education Authority it has been revealed that in the past five years a total of 148 jobs had to be carried out at St Mary’s Primary School, Cloughcor costing a combined total of

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£62,425.03. And with further works planned for repairs to the ailing school roof this summer, that total is set to rise significantly.

St Mary’s PS, Cloughcor recently hosted Education Minister, Peter Weir in a bid to demonstrate the poor condition of school facilities. Visiting at the behest of fellow MLA Daniel McCrossan, the minister was given a stark run-down of the challenges posed by the deteriorating building and its satellite mobile units. These challenges include the school roof and mobile classrooms which according to principal, Ann Lindsay are no longer fit for purpose. These units leak on a regular basis, the flooring needs constant repair, doors are affected by the wet weather and heating systems regularly need attention.

The main concern relayed to the minister was the state of the school roof, which is currently being propped up by thick wooden trusses in a number of classrooms. Mr Weir heard that such is the disrepair of the school roof, it is unlikely to withstand another heavy snowfall.

“It’s patchwork, in a sense,” principal Ann Lindsay said this week. “With wear and tear and with the age of the structure, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. It’s like we’re putting a sticking plaster onto a leak only for the leak to start somewhere else.”

Ms Lindsay explained that officials from the Education Authority have surveyed the school to ascertain how best to remedy the school roof situation. But where it was once thought a new roof would be viable, it now appears that the wooden trusses will be replaced by a metal cage support system.

“Obviously we’d love a new school but with the lack of leadership at Stormont that’s probably unlikely to happen,” she continued.

“The working environment of the mobile classrooms is another bugbear of mine. I recently wrote to the head  of Building Development at CCMS to come down to the school and see what they’re like, but the letter hasn’t even been acknowledged yet. We’re trying our best to highlight these problems but there’s only so much you can do.”

St Mary’s opened in 1972 to cater for an enrolment of 75 children. At one stage in 2010, the school was catering for almost three times that number. Currently, there are 183 children attending the school and there is inadequate play space and storage.

SDLP MLA, Daniel McCrossan says the “sticking plaster” approach demonstrated by the figures is no longer acceptable.

“I still stand by the calls I made for a new school,” he said.
“St Mary’s is oversubscribed and in terms of modern educational facilities, the school was built to cater for half the

children it now hosts. And it’s clear to anyone who visits the school that the building needs replacing.
“The sticking plaster approach isn’t going to cut it any more and we can see from these figures that continual repairs are only going to increase costs in the long term.”

Financial year    Jobs    Spend
12-13    14   £6,715.25
13-14     18   £5,644.76
14-15    38    £15,044.20
15-16     51     £18,369.23
16- Dec 16    27   £16,651.59

TOTAL JOBS:     148
TOTAL COST:         £62,425.03

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 15 Main Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AS