It was a cold frosty morning last Tuesday, February 11 but the weather did not impact on the historic day that saw the handover of the keys of Ballinamore’s new Community School from BAM Construction to the Principal and Board of Management.
The keys may have been small but the symbol was enormous, as the 46 year wait for an all encompassing school in the town finally became a reality.
Principal Padraig Leyden said “Today is a momentous and happy day for post primary education in Ballinamore. We have talked and dreamed of such an occasion for over forty years so ‘history making’ is no exaggeration in this case. We now have a fantastic state of the art school on a par with any school in the world. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate and it is a wonderfully exciting time to be involved in education in Ballinamore.”
BAM Building began work on the green field site out the Swanlinbar Road, opposite Sean O’Heslin’s football pitch in November 2012 and just 14 months later they have delivered a marvellous building well ahead of schedule and for an estimated figure of €8 million. Hundreds of people worked on the building over that period; at it’s busiest there were 135 people on site each week.
The view of the two storey school from the main road is impressive, but it is not until you actually get to tour the vast site that you see how truly amazing the new school is.
The facilities are superb with each room taking full advantage of the natural light, classrooms, science labs, computer rooms, gym, sports hall, language room, engineering room, construction room, demonstration room with theatre seating, drama, religion and meditation rooms, canteen, lecture halls and outdoor courts are all fitted to the highest specifications and standards to maximise the potential of students.
Each room also has it’s own thermostat to determine the room temperature, the school is heated by gas and the rooms are connected through large, wide, sweeping corridors.
The four acre site also includes a training football pitch (which will be ready for playing on this summer), five basketball courts which can be used for a variety of sports, dressing rooms, polytunnel, bus shelter, car park and one way pickup/drop off traffic system.
The new school has a large canteen area, as students will no longer be allowed down town during breaks. There will be a variety of hot lunches and snacks available for purchase.
Over the next two weeks €150,000 worth of IT equipment will be installed into the school along with 100mb broadband wi-fi connection.
So why the lime green colour? BAM Facilities Manager Mary McKeon told the paper they had to choose between the colours of black, brown or green and green was the best option to reflect the landscape!
As a Public Private Partnership buildthe school now passes into the capable hands of BAM Facilities Management and local manager Mary McKeon.
BAM FM is the Hard and Soft FM provider and manages the life cycle of the building over the next 25 years.
Mr Leyden expressed his gratitude to everyone who helped make the amalgamation and new school possible, “starting as far back as the late sixties the school principals of the time Fr. Francis McKiernan, Mr. Christy Gallogly and Sr. Mary de Lourdes Sharkey - all local people - agreed to cooperate for the improvement of education in the locality.
“With the cooperation of all the education partners - staff, parents, trustees, students and community they set the wheels in motion for today. Their successors, Brendan Burns, Sr. Kathleen Gormley, Fr. Thomas Keogan and Fr. Francis Duffy carried the torch over the intervening forty years as did the staff and students who drove, cycled and mostly walked the length of Ballinamore.
“The setting up of a formal Parents’ Association in the nineties lent weight to the campaign and through countless letters, deputations, emails, telephone calls and a campaign of public meetings ensured the purchase of the present site. The support of local politicians, the OPW, the DES and ultimately the local community have brought us to this point today.”
The school currently has 25 teachers and just under 300 students. The new school is built to facilitate approximately 400 students.
The students begin their phased-in move to the school on Monday, February 24.
In recognition of the tremendous support from the wider Ballinamore Community, the schoolis organising an Open Day on Saturday, March 1 from 2-5pm when the public will have an opportunity to appreciate the wonderful facilities and consider enrolment.