A view of the exterior of Moate Community School.

Exciting plans for Moate CS revealed

Moate Community School is on the cusp of an exciting new era after principal Tom Lowry said he hopes that work, pending planning, will begin on a new multi-million euro secondary school in the town next year. He was speaking following the submission of an ambitious new proposal for a purpose-built school for 1,000 students to Westmeath County Council on May 31 last.

It would see all premises barring the St Joseph's building, the oldest on-site, and the one facing the road, knocked as part of a phased construction project to provide new state-of-art accommodation for students and staff.

The school was first established in 1996 following the amalgamation of the Convent of Mercy Secondary School, the Carmelite College and Moate Vocational School.

“The proposed development, which includes the demolition of the majority of the existing school buildings, and their replacement with a new part two-storey, part three-storey extension and upgrades to the St Joseph’s building, will deliver a high-quality educational facility to support the needs of the school, its staff, and its pupils,” the planning documents explained.

It would also respond to the need for the “anticipated growth of the school” by providing a new upgraded educational and support facilities, a more efficient site layout and improved access for sustainable transport options and car parking arrangement. The existing school buildings were constructed in 1870, circa 1955 and circa 2002 and can no longer accommodate the number of pupils at Moate Community School, the plans stated.

“Since its development, various extensions to the school have been required to cater for the education needs of the catchment area. To make up for the shortfall of space, temporary accommodation has been required over the years, resulting in ten additional buildings being installed on an ad-hoc basis. The majority of these buildings are no longer fit-for-purpose and do not meet current development standards,” one of the reports in the planning file said.

In his eleven years as principal, one of his main priorities was getting a new purpose-built school and Tom Lowry said he is “thrilled” to be at this stage.

“Hopefully we we will be starting on the build in the next academic year, in other words by this time next year,” he said on Friday last. “We have moved to a student cohort of 1,200 – close to 900 secondary and 300 in third-level, and the new secondary school will be for 1,000 students.”

In a letter submitted by the principal with the planning documents, he stated that the Department of Education has set the long-term projected enrolment at 1,000 students and has “sanctioned building works to meet this need”.

He spoke of the “significant oversubscription” of applications to the school this year, a position that leaves them only meeting demand for spaces by providing temporary accommodation on-site.

“There is no remaining scope, within our school to add further temporary accommodation, nor is it desirable to be reliant on this,” he added in the letter.

The construction of the proposed development would be carried out in two phases, and this would “allow for minimal disruption of the normal operations of the school” and minimise the need for additional temporary accommodation buildings.

The first phase would consist of the demolition of existing school buildings and construction of a three-storey extension, PE hall, ESB substation, provision of new temporary accommodation and removal and relocation of existing temporary buildings.

In the second phase, construction would begin on the remaining elements of the extension and decanting of the existing St Joseph’s building or the old boarding school into the new extension. The St Joseph’s building will be refurbished, a new car park configured along with the removal of all temporary accommodation and all external works and landscaping.

The multi-million euro project includes the construction of a circa 9,600 square metres, part two-storey, part three-storey extension to the St Joseph’s building. The extension would form an L-shape to integrate with the existing building and enclose and expand the existing courtyard space at the southeast of the site.

Among the facilities to be provided the refurbished St Joseph’s building include Special Education Needs (SEN) unit on the ground floor with and general classrooms at first floor level. In the two/three storey extension there will be general and specialist classrooms, a general purpose hall, PE Hall, offices, staff room, library, social spaces, sanitary facilities and ancillary spaces.

Solar panels are planned for the roof of the school, along with provision of three Multi Use Game Area (MUGA) courts, landscaped gardens and other social spaces. Part of the existing boundary wall at Church Street would be demolished as part of the development to make way for a new set-back wall to create a new plaza area, with an improved pedestrian/cyclist entrance and a widening of the entrance for vehicles.

A car and bus set down area for seven buses is also earmarked for Church Street, while an accessible car space will be relocated and 22 existing spaces removed. 54 car parking spaces will be provided on-site, to include two accessible spaces, six electric vehicle charging spaces and 100 bicycle parking spaces.

The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) is supporting the Department of by delivering on its behalf 20 school building projects in the Devolved Schools Building Programme. Project Dargle forms part of this wider programme and comprises of the development of seven schools, including Moate, the planning documents also revealed.

The site has two protected structures, a single-storey gazebo and a wall mounted cast iron post box, both of which will be relocated and retained as part of the project. Following repairs, the gazebo would be integrated into the overall landscape scheme for the courtyard and entrance area making it an important feature in the school and the town.

Westmeath County Council is due to announce a decision on the school project by July 25 next.