The pupils of Partry NS are pictured at the opening of the new school extension with Teresa Horan, Principal; Mary McLoughlin, Secretary; Tom Byrne, former Principal and current Chairperson of Board of Management; John Kennedy, cleaner; Fr John Kenny, PP, and member of Board of Management; Aisling Conroy, Special Education Teacher (SET) and Áine Daniel, Junior Room Teacher Pic: Conor McKeown
LOUGH CARRA glimmered in the spring sunshine for the long overdue opening of the new extension to St Mary’s National School in Partry.
With the Easter Holidays just hours away, there was a palpable sense of giddiness and excitement among all the boys and girls last Friday.
After two long years of school closures, pods, masks and general uncertainty, this was a day for all 45 students to dispense with the cóipleabhair and peann luaidh and enjoy themselves.
A day of fun lay in store for all associated with this school, which was founded in 2017 through the amalgamation of Partry NS and Scoil Náisiúnta Coill an tSidheáin.
It began with Fr John Kenny performing the official blessing of the extension, which houses an extra classroom and a disabled access toilet.
Fr Kenny acknowledged the ‘hard effort’ it had taken to get this facility build and praises the efforts of all who had helped bring it to fruition.
“We pray for our school, that it will be a place of great discovery, adventure and creativity. May it be a place where we love to learn, and we learn to love. A place where everyone is respected and all are deeply valued,” said Fr Kenny.
School principal Teresa Horan also extended her thanks, saying: “We thought with lockdown, Covid and everything the kids have been through, that it was a great way to start this year. It’s all about positivity, your wellbeing, your mindfulness and positive mental health. They are fantastic. As you can see, they are a very positive group.”
As parents and staff watched on, the children read prayers for their school, their teachers and for peace in Ukraine.
They then sang and signed a beautiful song wishing for peace and happiness in their school.
Formalities concluded as the children got ready for their Rainbow Ramble for Pieta House, which is part of their Amber Flag programme promoting positive mental health.
Since the start of this year, the school has had their own unique crest designed by Bronwyn Kelly. With the help of her mother Natasha, Bronwyn created a beautiful crest depicting children playing outside their school nestled between the Carra and the Mask, with the Partry Mountains standing tall and majestic in the background.
“I wanted to make the school and my friends and the lake and everything,” Bronwyn told The Mayo News.
The children then return from their Rainbow Ramble to find that the Easter Bunny had arrived early.
While adults helped themselves to tea and biscuits and the young ones feasted on chocolate, St Mary’s National School Principal Teresa Horan told The Mayo News about how the new extension came to fruition.
“This school was built in 1972. The children used to go to school in what is now the Monsignor Horan Community Centre. It was opened and blessed in 1973 and it stayed as Partry National School right up until 2017.”
It was in this year that the school made an application to construct a wheelchair accessible toilet for a student with a physical disability.
However, the need for an extension was identified to provide a proper special education room, which had operated out of a cramped staff room for many years.
The extra space would also help facilitate an after-school club in the school’s middle classroom.
“We applied for it in 2018 and what we were looking for is the corridor along the front,” Ms Horan explained.
“It’s not ideal because if I had a wheelchair-bound child in my classroom he or she would have to go through a hall way to get here, or go out in the rain.
“We fought for two or three years to try and get a corridor but the department wouldn’t fund it, so we gave in eventually and we said ‘We’ll get this built now.’
“We moved in last September, but the builders still had a lot of work to do on the wheelchair accessible toilet, so it wasn’t really ready to open until now.”
Special education teacher Aisling Conroy now has her own dedicated space in this bright new room, while other teachers can enjoy their staff room without intruding on others.
If the school can add two more students to its enrolment, if will have requisite space to accommodate a third full-time teacher.
“It’s absolutely brilliant because if a doctor or nurse came to do vaccinations or check-ups, it was in the staff room,” Ms Horan explains.
“Everything was happening in an environment that wasn’t safe.”
You can find out more about St Mary’s NS Partry on their newly-launched school website at: https://www.stmarysnspartry.com/.