The new Scoil Cholmcille campus was officially opened today, marking the fourth incarnation of a school which has been providing primary education to generations of children in Letterkenny for 127 years.
Members of the school community, past and present, celebrated the realisation of a grand vision. That vision has been 17 years in development, but the building that stands today has been greeted as a triumph.
The new 21st century school building boasts 24 new digitally equipped classrooms, 13 new support rooms, 4 new lined play yards, 44 internal car park spaces and beautiful newly landscaped grounds. The €5.5million extension, which blends seamlessly with the original building, has already picked up an award for Best Public Building by Letterkenny Tidy Towns.
Principal Paraig Cannon was full of gratitude on the historic day of celebration today as former Education Minister Joe McHugh had the honours of formally opening the extension.
Mr Cannon said: “Every oak tree begins as a single acorn and so it was with Scoil Cholmcille. The first school building opened 127 years ago in 1896; it had 2 teachers, 70 pupils and consisted of a single but large room in the middle, with a smaller end room at either end. Today, we have 612 pupils, 40 teaching staff, 9 Special Needs Assistants, 2 School Secretaries and a Caretaker.
“Today a vision has been realised; a vision that has been promoted and built upon by many past and present Boards of Managements, Parents’ Associations and a generation of staff members, many of whom are with us today. Today we open a 21st Century School building capable of providing state-of-the-art accommodation and facilities required for an effective 21st century primary school experience.”
The multi-million project was not without its challenges. They first received confirmation for their extension from the Department of Education in 2006. Mr Cannon was appointed Principal in 2007, taking over from Mr Tom Redden who led the school for 24 years.
“In the ensuing 16 years”, Mr Cannon said, “We had seven Ministers for Education, five changes of government, four changes of Boards of Management, one extension to planning permission, a major recession, the collapse of one of our design team companies, new fire certificate legislation, multiple meetings with the Department of Education and presentations to various Ministers in Letterkenny in Dáil Eireann. Despite these challenges, we finally got the green light and had our Covid turning of the sod ceremony by the then Minister of Education Joe McHugh on Monday 24th August 2020.”
The extension was completed within two years and has been described as one of the finest modern buildings of Letterkenny town today.
Joe McHugh TD praised the Scoil Cholmcille community as an international school steeped in the tradition of Letterkenny.
“Within your school staff there is an enthusiasm, creative ability and ambition to do the right thing and create that space for this generation and the next,” he said.
“I am honoured to have played a part in both the school’s education journey and construction journey, and wish the school well as it continues to offer a safe learning environment for this generation and the next,” Deputy McHugh said.
Mr Paschal Blake, chair of the school’s Board of Management, expressed gratitude to each of the key players of the construction project. They included Design Team under Mr. Gregg Smeaton, MH Associates Architects, Mr. Johnny Dorian and his team at Dorrian Construction Ltd, Mr. Damien Mc Glynn, Clerk of Works and many more.
Patron of Scoil Cholmcille, Bishop Alan Mc Guckian officially blessed the building on Tuesday, which was followed by the unveiled of a new sculpture ‘The Tree of Unity’ by a long time friend of the community and table tennis coach Mr. Paddy Delap.
The celebrations will continue throughout this week. Tomorrow, Thursday 18th May, all members of the community are invited to view the new school building between 5.30-7.30pm. Scoil Cholmcille, Convent Road, Letterkenny, F92 A386.
See more photos from today’s event here: