Staff and pupils are delighted with the recently-completed extension in the Morning Star National School in Ballyphehane.
Morning Star NS caters for a total of 130 boys and opened its own ASD facility in 2013 with one class of six students.
The school now boasts four special needs classes and one early intervention class for three to five-year-olds, with a maximum of six pupils per class.
The extension, which cost over €2m, has resulted in a huge upgrade to its existing facilities. School principal Donal Deasy is delighted with the completed finish.
“We are thrilled. It is great to see the completed finish. The new extension will transform the working, teaching and learning environment in the school. The atmosphere and energy in the school is amazing. The children seem to be happier and there is such a positive feel around the school. By simply creating more space by opening it out and adding new colours, it has given everyone a lift,” he said.
The extension idea was initially initiated in 2012. Mr Deasy said it has been a long process since they decided to embark on their ambitious idea.
“It has been a long road. There were a number of years of getting the funding in place and dealing with the various stakeholders. In 2018, we finally broke ground and by April 2019 the guts of the work was done. The outbreak of Covid-19 led to another delay, but we managed to get a lot of work such as painting and moving contents done last summer.
"Parents and staff, as well as the Cork ETB have been very supportive in getting this project up and running. The staff came in after school and at weekends of their own accord to help out. We got a partial handover around Christmas time and we got the official handover soon after that. The playground was literally laid about three weeks ago,” he added.
The primary school which was initially built in 1964, and last had renovation work carried out in the early 80s. The principal said the new extension which is 600 sq metres in total was a big undertaking, but it was badly needed.
“It involved removing an old part of the school which was not up to standard and it was leaking. We demolished a whole section of the old school and the old yard and the old storage sheds. We took up an old grass section behind the school which has become a new playground.
"We had a class inside in our hall. The hall was being used as a combination of a staff room, a computer room and a classroom which wasn’t sustainable. The finish is amazing.
"We have four new classrooms, four new resource rooms or offices. We have a new sensory room and a new storage room. We have also upgraded some of the older school into a new office and a meeting room. We now have a proper staff room and each class has their own classroom. We have also invested in single desk furniture to create more space in the classroom which is so appropriate now post Covid,” he added.
Mr Deasy said the primary school always strives to provide the best facilities and educational services to their students.
“It is vital to provide the best facilities and educational resources for our students. We took a decision in 2013 to set up one class for children with autism. We now have four ASD classes. We are well equipped. We try our best to provide the best service we can in the local community. There is a lovely community feel to our school.
"Any successful enterprise has to be based on good relations. We have worked hard to ensure there is a nice and positive atmosphere within the school. We have a growth mindset and a belief we can solve any problems.”
The school principal said the students who have returned to school in recent weeks are thrilled with the new extension.
“We are all thrilled to be back. Our teachers are delighted to be back interacting with their students. The students were delighted to see the new extension. When they saw the playground for the first time, they just paused in awe. They just exploded onto the playground.
“Everything is so new and fresh. They have so much more space. The colours are brighter. They are so much happier. They love their new surroundings.”