Primary education in Ballinamore is now one big happy family as three schools have successfully amalgamated to become Scoil Chlann Naofa.
Bishop Leo O'Reilly officially cut the ribbon and opened the new school last Wednesday, November 21.
The school is housed in the Old Meanscoil Fatima building, and it has undergone a massive design renovation, transforming it into a modern national school with a large recreational outdoor space with “room to extend” according to Principal Noel McKeon.
Current pupils of the school along with parents, staff members and invited guests celebrated a special ceremony led by Bishop O'Reilly inside the also newly renovated Scoil Bríd Naofa building adjacent to the new school. Two classrooms have been merged into one large hall which will be used for PE and assembly.
The oldest and the youngest students held the ribbon as Bishop O'Reilly cut the ribbon in time to the children's countdown.
Principal Noel McKeon said students and staff are delighted to be all together and under one roof.
The schools amalgamated two years ago but had to wait until this year to physically merge.
Mr McKeon noted “Ballinamore's long tradition with education and arts” and said they hope to continue to provide the best possible standard of education for generations to come.
He commented “children here will grow up to have jobs we have not even heard of yet.”
Tributes were paid to the Sisters of Mercy and their contribution to education for decades in the town as well as the great support received from Bishop Leo O'Reilly.
Chairperson of the school Raymond McHugh outlined the fight they had to get this new school. “We were naive and thought it could take a year - it took five.”
In Easter 2014, Mr McHugh recalls the Department of Education said the schools could merge but there was no funding aside from a bit for “a lick of paint.” But in 2015 they were allocated €715,000.
The boards of management and parents associations were praised as well as the entire community of Ballinamore who supported their efforts.
Bishop O'Reilly said it was fitting the school be called Chlann Naofa in the year “we celebrated the World Meetings of Families in Ireland.” He congratulated everyone involved and said this did not happen without much hard work. He also thanked Parish Priest Fr Sean Mawn for facilitating the works.
Inside the school it is bright and spacious and colourfully kitted out for the pupils.
The opening of this school ends decades of lobbying by the Ballinamore community to merge their school systems. It took 40 years to achieve the merging of the three secondary schools in the town. Ballinamore Community School opened in 2014. The long tradition of excellent education looks bright for generations to come in Ballinamore.