LORETO secondary school in Letterkenny is to be expanded to include a new special educational needs unit.
A science laboratory and a sensory garden are also to be developed on the grounds of the 19th century school under proposals which have just been published by the Department of Education.
Details of the extension plans are contained in four tender documents seeking architects, building services, civil structural engineers and quantity surveyors.
Within the documents are project details for a new two-classroom special needs unit, a secure hard and soft play area, a sensory garden, a science lab and toilets.
A number of older prefab classrooms are to be demolished to make way for the new building while six parking spaces are also included in the proposals.
Principal of Loreto, Gerardine Mullen, said the plans stretched back to Deputy Joe McHugh’s tenure as education minister.
Ms Mullen said the then minister suggested that the school could be doing with additional accommodation. Following his remarks representations were made to the Department of Education.
The principal said Loreto already had an excellent autism unit with room for six students. But into the future, the school does anticipate a need for more space.
On the overall development plans, Ms Mullen said, “Staff are really looking forward to it and it will give us a great deal of enhancement in terms of what we are able to provide.”
Work could begin by the end of this year and hopes are that the new wing will be operational in the next two years.
Joe McHugh TD said he was delighted that they had reached the stage of moving to tender.
“I have a special interest in Loreto because I worked there for a few years as a teacher.
“I know its values and its ethos and I know how necessary these expansion plans are as it keeps going from strength to strength.
“I’m delighted for Gerardine and I worked closely with her predecessor, the late Nora Friel who was from my own parish. I’m delighted too for the staff and for the pupils of a school that plays such an important role in the Letterkenny and wider community.”
The Loreto plans come at a time of change for several schools in Letterkenny.
Scoil Cholmcille’s new build is near completion, Ballyraine National School is completed, Little Angels is under construction, work is to start on a major development at St Eunan’s College while both Errigal College and Illistrin are in the national plan.
Deputy McHugh said the developments were vital to meet the needs of a constantly expanding population.
“Our infrastructure has to move at the same pace as our growing population,” the former education minister added.
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