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Millions required for school repairs

REPAIRS of approximately £3million will be required at the five Omagh post-primary schools prior to their move to the new Strule Education Campus.

REPAIRS running to a total of £3million will be required at the five Omagh post-primary schools prior to their move to the new Strule Education Campus.

New figures released this week showed that Sacred Heart College alone needs a whopping £1.8million investment to make it fit for purpose, with Omagh High School accounting for a further £859,000.

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However, as time passes and uncertainty continues over the completion date for the groundbreaking Strule project, it is feared that those figures could increase.

Originally the campus had been earmarked for opening in 2020, yet it could take another five years – until September 2023 – before it is completed.

Sara Long, director of operations and estates with the Education Authority told Fermanagh and Omagh District Council that the additional money is needed for work that has already been identified.

As well, Harry Mullan, chairman of the Board of Governors at the Sacred Heart College has urged the EA to prioritise what needs to be done to ensure that the schools continue to meet health and safety standards.

He said the big fear is that the schools will not be compliant with those standards.

“It is absolutely vital that something is done about this urgently and that the EA reviews the situation,” he told the UH.

“They need to sit down with ourselves in Sacred Heart and the other schools and outline what work is absolutely
necessary.

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“The fact is that the two former schools which formed the Sacred Heart College were both opened almost 60 years ago and have outlived their usefulness as buildings.

“The delay in the construction of the Strule Campus has not helped. While most of the other schools have had significant upgrades in recent years, the Sacred Heart College has not been extensively refurbished.

“This situation is only likely to get worse and we now need a robust engagement with the Education Authority to resolve this issue.

“The recent announcements in relation to the potential further delays in the completion of the Strule Campus should have triggered a review of the condition of the existing schools.

“But the unfortunate thing is that there appears to be a near blanket ban on this type of expenditure at the moment due to budget constraints.”

In addition to the Sacred Heart College and Omagh High School, the maintenance bills for the other schools are Omagh Academy (£184,271), Omagh Christian Brothers (£30,300) and Loreto Convent Grammar (£201,950).

The figures, which are set to be discussed at a council meeting tonight (Thursday), also show that in the past five years almost £1.5 million has been spent on so-called ‘response,’ ‘planned’ and minor works maintenance.

Sara Long added, “The Education Authority are satisfied that schools are maintained to a satisfactorily safe standard and that all emergency, urgent and routine inspection matters for maintenance are dealt with quickly and within the context of extremely tight financial constraints.”

“It is absolutely vital that something is done about this urgently and that the EA reviews the situation,” he told the UH.

“They need to sit down with ourselves in Sacred Heart and the other schools and outline what work is absolutely necessary.

“The fact is that the two former schools which formed the Sacred Heart College were both opened almost 60 years ago and have outlived their usefulness as buildings.

“The delay in the construction of the Strule Campus has not helped. While most of the other schools have had significant upgrades in recent years, the Sacred Heart College has not been extensively refurbished.

“This situation is only likely to get worse and we now need a robust engagement with the Education Authority to resolve this issue.

“The recent announcements in relation to the potential further delays in the completion of the Strule Campus should have triggered a review of the condition of the existing schools.

“But the unfortunate thing is that there appears to be a near blanket ban on this type of expenditure at the moment due to budget constraints.”

In addition to the Sacred Heart College and Omagh High School, the maintenance bills for the other schools are Omagh Academy (£184,271), Omagh Christian Brothers (£30,300) and Loreto Convent Grammar (£201,950).

The figures, which are set to be discussed at a council meeting tonight (Thursday), also show that in the past five years almost £1.5 million has been spent on so-called ‘response,’ ‘planned’ and minor works maintenance.

Sara Long added, “The Education Authority are satisfied that schools are maintained to a satisfactorily safe standard and that all emergency, urgent and routine inspection matters for maintenance are dealt with quickly and within the context of extremely tight financial constraints.”

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