Latest Laois News: Kolbe School Update
Local TD maintains Kolbe School project will proceed despite delay
Sean Fleming T.D., Minister of State in the Department of Foreign Affairs has today spoken with the Principal of Kolbe Special School and the Minister for Education, Norma Foley T.D. in connection with the recent information from the Department regarding the school.
I acknowledge that while the process for this project going to tender is “on hold” there is significant good news in relation to works on this project progressing quickly. The school was informed last Friday that enabling works to be carried out by the ESB to divert electricity cables at the site can proceed straight away. I am in contact with the ESB for a timescale for them to complete their works. It has always been the case that until the ESB divert the cables that no works could commence on the site until their work is completed. This is the next stage in this project, and this is cleared to go ahead. (Sean Fleming TD)
Video from April 2021
This school is an absolute priority for me to ensure a new school gets built on the site adjacent to the existing school in Portlaoise. I am fully committed and adamant that this will happen. This new school project will proceed despite this delay. (Sean Fleming TD)
The Kolbe School issue could be a big one on the doorsteps during the next Local Election (Laois People Editor John Hayes)
The school received an e-mail on Monday, 6th March from the Planning and Building Unit in the Department of Education saying, “Currently there are 58 school building projects, including the major project for Kolbe Special School, on hold for proceeding to tender due to capital funding pressures”. This is a serious set-back and I am seeking clarity as to when this project which is now “on hold” can proceed to tender and construction stage. (Sean Fleming TD)
I received information from the Minister on 21st February 2023 regarding progress on Kolbe Special School (see below) as I have been in constant contact with the Department on this matter. (Sean Fleming TD)
The Minister in her recent information to me stated that “An Enabling Works to divert electricity cables at the site for the new school will need to be carried out in advance of the building works for the Major Project. The Project Manager and Design Team are in consultation with the Local Authority and the ESB with regards to this”.
I fully understand that the pupils in Kolbe Special School are the most vulnerable in our society as they have severe and profound disabilities and special needs. I believe we should do everything possible to provide the best facilities for the pupils to spend their childhood and adolescent years as urgently as possible. (Sean Fleming TD)
A new Kolbe Special School is my top priority. This will happen despite this delay. (Sean Fleming TD)
Local Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley described the decision by the Department of Education to take Kolbe school off the priority Capital Building Programme is disgraceful.
“The children, parents and staff in Kolbe have waited years and they are in dire need of a new building. They have the worst building and facilities in the county. Absolute commitments were given to myself and others on this and that it was being fast tracked. I have raised this issue with successive Government Ministers. Minister Foley and other Ministers have been adamant that the project is “A Priority’’.
The new building for Kolbe School has been ready to go since last year with site surveys and preparation work completed. Only on Friday 3th March the Architect for the school was given the green light for preliminary approval for ground works. However, by Monday all this changed when the Department pulled the project.
Government now need to get this back on track, Kolbe has been neglected for too long. I have engaged with the Minister and the Department to get Kolbe reinstated to priority status and works commenced.
Former Fianna Fáil member and now prospective Independent candidate Donal Kelly has this to say on the issue:
I have never been a believer in an either/ or scenario although it is hard not to fall into this trap with the news concerning Kolbe School in Portlaoise. As we watch the tedious completion of the new library on Main Street which has shot millions ahead of budget, without so much as a book having been bought so far, it defies all credulity that the government cannot find the funds to start works on the Kolbe Centre immediately.
Funds are magically, freely available for all and any other less important projects. The fact that the students in this facility are the most in need and vulnerable in our community and have been abandoned by government is sickening to the core. Any elected representative in our community who has a shred of humanity and common decency now has the opportunity to demonstrate these virtues.
Sean Fleming had been very quick to make the announcement of the developments at Kolbe in April 2021 and now the silence of the grave has descended on him with respect to the facility. Anybody with a modicum of common sense can see through the fudge he has thrown out with respect to the ESB carrying our preliminary works at the site, this is merely a delay and diversion tactic on his behalf and will undoubtedly be used as an excuse for nothing happening on the site somewhere in the future. While he and his government coalition buddy Charlie Flanagan procrastinate on this matter, the most cherished and vulnerable members of our community have been tossed aside like an old sweater.
I call on Seán Fleming to make a clear and unambiguous statement with respect to this vital piece of infrastructure immediately and end the suffering of the children and their parents. Quite frankly they have enough to put up with, without the added stress of this reprehensible, cruel and callous decision being brought to bear on them.
Fellow Fianna Fáil member Naeem Iqbal went on the record as follows yesterday when news of the delay broke:
I express my deep concern over the delay of all these 58 school building projects especially Kolbe Special School.
I understand the devastation of the parents, community and the school managements who tried hard to get these projects approved after years of effort.
I hope the concerned departments and ministeries will fund these projects without any further delays by putting education and health as their top priority.
Aontú Rep for Laois, Eleanor Deane Maher said the following:
“This is devastating news for all connected with the Kolbe School. The parents and teachers are absolutely stunned and deeply upset at this development. It has literally come out of the blue. There had been much relief when the Government gave the go ahead for the school; it was actually announced in a fanfare and local TD Sean Fleming actually admitted it was long overdue. The Dept has given no indication whatsoever of how long this project will be on hold for. It states that the Department’s Planning and Building Unit is currently assessing its work programme and priorities for 2023”.
“This is an absolute disgrace. The parents of children with special needs have to fight for every single thing they get and to see the Dept of Education refer to them as not a ‘priority’ is shameful”. Most of the little children are not mobile and they are being taught in cabins”.
“I know that the Board of Management at Kolbe is working on a response to this. The love and care these very special children are given by the staff is incredible. I have seen this first hand, they do all in their power to make the children’s lives bright and comfortable, they are so genuinely caring and compassionate and my heart goes out to them today”.
“Currently there are 58 school building projects, including this major and much needed project for Kolbe Special School on hold for proceeding to tender. This is quite inexplicable; 58 schools is a huge amount and it reflects our Government’s deep lack of genuine leadership, transparency, ability and misplaced priorities. On one hand we are told that we are fiscally sound, on the other we are being told that the money is not there for the most vulnerable”.
“Given that we are a few short weeks away from Easter, with our Proclamation urging all children to be cherished equally, it is sad and shocking that the reality is anything but”.
“I am going to keep up the pressure on this, I can’t in all conscience allow this treatment of children, parents and staff who deserve nothing but support and help”.
Prospective Independent candidate Dom Dunne had the following to say on the delay:
“I’m absolutely disgusted with this decision. At the last local elections; which is 3 years ago now, I met the Principal of that school and she took me around the over-crowded classrooms. To think 3 years later they are still waiting. Our local politicians along with our 3 sitting TD’s should be ashamed.
You have a prison beside the Kolbe Centre with prisoners getting the best of everything laid on for them. And still our most vulnerable kids in our county have to wait for a new school. Disgraceful.