Wait is over as school gets new building
ANOTHER major milestone in the school’s history is how the principal of Portadown Integrated Primary School views Tuesday’s announcement that it is to get a new building.
Feargal Magee said pupils and staff were delighted at the “fantastic news” which they had been waiting years to receive.
Portadown Integrated Primary School is one of 22 school building projects - 14 primary and eight post-primary - that Education Minister John O’Dowd has announced will go ahead as part of a £220 million capital build programme.
No date has been given for when the work will start but the school is relieved simply to have got to this stage after many years of uncertainty.
Said Mr Magee, “On my first day as principal in 2004, a group from the Department of Education came down to assess the condition of the building with the view to a new school and in 2005 a feasibility study was completed and sent to the department.
“I used to phone a lot to see how things were progressing but then I stopped. I had actually phoned last week, and was told there was to be an announcement, but I put it to the back of my head because there have been so many disappointments.”
When the call was put through to him mid-morning on Tuesday, it was the start of a new phase for the school, which began life in 1990 with 24 children in a mobile classroom in the grounds of Portadown Rugby Club.
The now 234-strong school is housed in a prefabricated building, originally given a life span of 10 years. Said Mr Magee, “A lot of money has been spent on repairs and maintenance over the years and it had got to the point where it was throwing good money after bad. A lot of my time was also spent engaging with maintenance people.
“It will be great to get to a stage where there will be less to worry about in terms of the actual building.”
Mr Magee said the announcement was good news for the many parents who want to send their children to an integrated school. He said, “There is hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a call from people wanting to enrol their child at the school, and not just in P1 but in P4, P5 and P6.
“Our enrolment will grow to 260 pupils in September, which includes the nursery classes. However, we have had 43 applications for P1 and we can only take 30, and that’s doesn’t include the parents who contact me just before the application deadline.”
He added, “It is always frustrating and can be heartbreaking to have to refuse a parent. Many people want integrated education - often because they are in a mixed relationship or because they believe integrated education is the way forward.”
He said it was hoped that with the new building, enrolment numbers would also be able to increase, allowing the school to grant a place to every child who wanted one.
A site has also to be confirmed for the new school but Mr Magee said its current site at Kernan would be the preferred option. “We have been here since 1991 and it is convenient for our pupils who come from a wide area, including Lurgan, Maralin, Tandragee, Gilford and, of course, Portadown.
“We also have spare space around the building suitable for expansion,” he said.
Mr Magee added, “I see this as the next major stage in our history. It’s a great reward for the families, staff, the governors and the community who have supported us over the years.”
Speaking about the investment, the Education Minister said, “This announcement is good news for the pupils and staff at Portadown Integrated Primary School as well as the wider community. The £220 million investment will also be welcomed as a much needed boost to the construction sector over the coming years.
“The projects are aimed at either addressing serious or substandard accommodation inadequacies, or at effecting agreed rationalisation of the schools estate.”
He stressed that the authorisation to proceed with construction on each project would be based on the level of capital funding availability at that time and all necessary approvals being obtained.
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Weather for Portadown
Friday 24 May 2013
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