Construction of the new €11m Comeragh Community College campus on a 16 acres site in Carrick-on-Suir is on schedule to be finished by March next year, a sod turning ceremony carried out by Environment Community & Local Government Minister Alan Kelly heard last Friday.
Contractors BAM Group Ireland began working on the site at Tinvane off the Pill Road in early January and have progressed rapidly. Two thirds of the two-storey building is now built up to roof level.
Two giant cranes were assisting construction workers on the busy building site at noon last Friday as Minister Kelly carried out the ceremonial sod turning in front of local politicians, Comeragh College staff, Board of Management and Parents Association representatives and Tipperary Education & Training Board representatives.
On completion, the new school will accommodate up to 500 students and will comprise 16 specialist classrooms, 11 general classrooms, a PE hall, a general purpose hall nd a Special Needs Unit. There will be a 48 space car park, five ball courts and a GAA playing pitch.
This new school campus is long-awaited by students and staff. It was first proposed 32 years ago. The student population has long ago outgrown the existing school building at Greenside, opened in 1970. Since 1991, the school has been divided over two campuses with senior cycle students educated at the former St Joseph’s College School on Greystone Street and juniors educated at Greenside.
Speaking at the current school before the sod turning ceremony, Minister Kelly said this was a very special and important day for everyone associated with Comeragh College and the school’s future.
He paid tribute to the Government’s “progressive decision” of allocating a very significant amount of money to school projects such as this at a very difficult time during its term.
He said it was important to remember Comeragh College’s teaching staff and boards of management members of the past, who contributed to securing this new school and singled out retired principal Pat Callanan, who was at the ceremony.
Minister Kelly acknowledged the current division of the school over two sites must be a nightmare for managing students and timetables and for ICT infrastructure. The school’s management and staff had, nevertheless, done everything possible to ensure good eductional standards were maintained and a broad curriculum was offered.
Principal Kevin Langton paid tribute to his predecessor Pat Callanan, who was principal for 32 years, and got the “ball rolling” on the new school project 31 years ago. He also thanked the past staff and VEC members, local politicians and local people for their work and support on this project. “We hope we will serve the school well when it’s up and running,” he said.
Tipperary ETB Chief Executive Fionnuala McGeever recalled the day when former principal Pat Callanan phoned her to say a suitable site may be on the market for the new school. She thanked the Department of Education officials who allowed the VEC to purchase that site quickly from O’Shea’s of Iverk for a wonderful price in late 2010. She thanked the NDFA for assisting them through the whole process and the former Carrick Town Council for their assistance during the planning permission process.
She recalled there had been a lot of people against the location of the school because of other route options being presented for a proposed ring road for the town. They got over all that, however, and it was now fantastic to re-unite Comeragh College. The building for senior cycle students they rented from the Mercy Order for 20 years never met the school’s needs and neither had the extension to the Greenside building. The movement of staff and students between the two campuses presented Health & Safety challenges on a daily basis and it was a nightmare to timetable.
“We are now looking forward to a very bright future for Comeragh College which after all these year has a bright new school.” She paid tribute to the school’s staff for the patience and noted that some had retired before getting the chance to work in the new school.
Derek O’Connor of BAM Group Ireland said the PPP contract for this project between BAM and the National Development Finance Agency included the design, building, finance and operating of the facility for 25 years when it will be handed back to the State. This new school will be equipped with the latest technology and designed to deliver the most advanced and comfortable environment for students and staff. When Comeragh College is completed, BAM will operate 12 schools nationwide, he added.
Comeragh College Board of Management Chairman Cllr Kieran Bourke said the construction of this new modern building marked the start of the next chapter of Comeragh College’s continuing story. He said the construction of this school, was in no small way, a tribute to the vision of his uncle, the late Cllr Denis Bourke, who as a councillor, Mayor of Carrick, member and Chair of the former Vocational Education Committee, lobbied for this building over many years. This tribute was echoed by ETB Chief Executive Fionnuala McGeever.
Tipperary ETB Chairman Cllr John Hogan said this was the two year-old Education & Training Board’s first major infrastructure project and it was a wonderful addition to the community of Carrick-on-Suir and surrounding areas and the future of its children.