Cork schools could face closure over safety fears

Cork schools could face closure over safety fears
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured this morning with principals of two Dublin schools which are currently closed due to construction structural defects. Picture Colin Keegan

FIVE Cork schools with a total of 1,500 students could be facing closure in the coming days due to serious safety fears with the buildings.

The schools are to be assessed for structural damage and general safety in the coming weeks following the closure of a school in Balbriggan, Dublin, due to potentially ‘life-threatening’ safety flaws.

An assessment at the Dublin school showed that sections of the walls of the building had an ‘80% chance’ of collapsing in storm force winds.

Nationally, some 42 Celtic Tiger-era schools built by Tyrone-based Western Building Systems, constructed between 2008 and 2017, will be examined before the end of the Halloween break. ‘A number’ of these will be shut, according to Education Minister Joe McHugh, with the government facing a multi-million euro bill to handle the problem.

In Cork, Cara Junior School in Mayfield — a school for children with autism — is among those to be assessed. Scoil Phádraig Naofa (Rochestown), Carrigaline Educate Together National School, Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin (Clonakilty) and Macroom Boys National School will also be assessed.

In all, the schools have a total roll call of 1,517 students, including more than 500 at Scoil Phádraig Naofa.

The Department of Education said the Cork schools will remain open until they are assessed next week during the midterm break.

Mr McHugh confirmed we are ‘in the territory’ of a number of schools being closed over the next fortnight due to the shock revelations.

Speaking after the Department of Education closed three schools built by Western Building Systems, Mr McHugh said that all of the company’s schools are now being examined.

And, noting still unpublished fire safety audits of the same schools which are understood to have uncovered other “significant” flaws, he added it is almost certain that more schools will be shut —causing serious problems for thousands of children and parents.

“We’re treating this very, very seriously. Safety comes first. There is an indication that a number of them [the schools] will be closed, so we’re in that territory of finding out and doing the analysis,” Mr McHugh told reporters at Government Buildings.

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