The closing of the door to Drumnamore NS on Wednesday, June 27, marked not only the end of over 100 years of education, it also marked the loss of the very heart of the community.
While other schools are centrally located in towns and villages, rural schools like Drumnamore are very much the centre of their local area and since the first school opened its doors in 1904, Drumnamore has played an important role in life in this part of the Aughavas parish.
With 14 students enrolled in 2011/2012, the school had hoped to stay open for at least a few more years, but sadly, the decision was made in recent weeks to close its doors.
Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, Principal, Martina Williams, who worked in the school for the past eight years, said that she was proud of the contribution the school, and especially the students, made to the local area.
Students at Drumnamore NS were encouraged to think globally and act locally and were involved in a number of charity events including fundraising for the Hospice, Jersey Day and the setting up of the local Barretstown Picnic fundraiser, to name but a few.
“The students were also encouraged to be the best they could be and were involved in things like local art exhibitions in the Solas Gallery in Ballinamore, local library workshops, the local parish concert, Cumann na mBunscol, the Discover Science Primary Awards and Green Flag. Even though we were a small school our students achieved so much and I think that is something which will stand them in good stead in the future,” an obviously proud Mrs Williams pointed out.
Recently the students became involved in the Biodiversity Programme, organising nesting boxes and creating an insect house and caring for a vivarium where they raised Painted Lady butterfly pupae to adulthood before releasing them. Students also took great pride in the plants and vegetables grown in their own school grounds, watering and weeding as well as keeping their school grounds litter free.
“I think that is one of the benefits of small schools like Drumnamore, every child is so immersed in projects in a small school because there are so few students,” explains Mrs Williams.
“For the children it was more than just a school, it was their school and they were immensely proud of it. I have very fond memories of my time here and I think we are all walking away, yes sad at the closure, but so proud of what has been achieved.”
Mrs Williams is especially thankful to her fellow staff at the school, teacher Catriona McLoughlin and learning support, Jane Scollan.
Ms McLoughlin, who spent six years at the school said she believed there were many benefits to attending a smaller school.
“ I definitely think in a smaller school there is more attention for each student so it is easier to identify any issues early and intervene,” she pointed out.
Smaller schools are also able to benefit better from very limited resources and working with smaller numbers also allows for more interaction with students.
“I definitely think that our time here in Drumnamore has been a very positive experience for the children who have attended and we have become such an important part of the community,” she said.
This fact was bourne out by the numbers who came to wish a fond farewell to the school on their final day last week.
“I’d like to thank everyone from the students and parents, to the Board of Management, secretary Rosaleen Dillon and cleaner Finola Quinn, thank you also to the clergy and the members of the community who have been so wonderful down through the years. Thank you also to everyone who helped us in any way in enhancing our grounds.
“It is awful to have to close the door on Drumnamore, but we walk way from here with many happy, happy memories and I’d like to wish our students the very best in their new schools.
“Sadly more and more small schools are going to be faced with this decision as we have. It is a loss that is going to affect more communities in the future.”