Minister for Education Joe McHugh has confirmed that Ardee Educate Together school has gone to tender, meaning contractors may soon be appointed to the project and work, in earnest, may begin on the ground of the long awaited new build.
Fergus O’Dowd posed a parliamentary question to the Minister on Thursday as the Dáil Éireann resumed asking for an update as to when commencement of work on the new site of the school on the Kells Road may begin. The Minister confirmed the school had finally passed through all requirements for Stage 2(b) of the project.
“The project has now progressed through Stage 2(b) which includes applications for planning permission, Fire Safety Certification, Disability Access Certification, and the preparation of tender documents,” Minister McHugh said. “I am pleased to advise that the project has very recently been approved to go to tender in that respect. Once the tender process has been completed, and a contractor appointed, construction can be expected to begin on site.”
In January, LouthNow.ie reported that Louth County Council were still awaiting approval from the Department of Education to bring the new Ardee Educate Together school to tender.
Stage 2B design was completed last year and contract documents were issued to the Department for approval late last year. Two years ago, people attached to the project were of the belief that the pupils could be in their new school building at some stage during the 2019/20 academic year.
With just four months of the school year to run, contractors have not yet been appointed but the tender process beginning will now expediate that process.
When Ardee Educate Together finally move to their long-awaited new school, they will be packing up and moving to a site a startling 17 times the size of their current location. While their current location could be described as quaint, cosy and close-knit – the reality is the school has far outgrown their current building.
The 151 pupils in the multi-denominational, all-faith school are currently operating out of just one in-building classroom and a number of prefab units, some of which have been in use since the school first opened 18 years ago. The current school building was first built in the 1800s.
Plans for the brand new €5 million Ardee Educate Together school on the Kells Road were passed by councillors at the Ardee Municipal District meeting held in April 2018.
The Drogheda-based Deputy welcomed the news today. “This has been a long time coming, it is really great to see that it has now moved on to the next stage and the school, it’s pupils and the faculty are one step closer to a brand new state of the art school,” he said in a statement.
“Cllr Dolores Minogue and I have both supported the project directly to the Minister for Education and supported the school through the 2B review and the subsequent delays.
“This project when complete will provide a state of the art school in Ardee for generations to come. The school already boasts 160 students and that is set to increase to 176 next year, the school provide a non-denominational choice for students in Ardee and Mid Louth,” O’Dowd continued.
Cllr Minogue said, “This project will be vital to the emerging educational needs of our young people in Ardee. The current site is not fit for purpose and it is quite clear that more and more children will register with the school in the coming years.”
“Hopefully we will see the sign off of tenders in the very near future and the project can finally become a reality.”
In response to a parliamentary question asked by Fine Gael TD O’Dowd last September, it emerged that ‘significant archaeological finds’ were recorded in and around the vicinity of the site. The project was described as a ‘challenging project to plan’.
Fire Safety Certificates and Disabled Access Certificates were received in late 2018, and a preliminary Health and Safety Plan was completed in late April. The Department of Education also said there is ‘also a need to carefully plan and design the site’s road access from the N52,’ saying this prolonged the planning process.
However, planning permission was granted in 2018 and progress has been slow ever since. The Department of Education approved plans for a new school building as far back as 2012.