Parents Critical Of Plans To Convert Store Into Special Need Class

Plans of new €4.2 million primary school in Co Cork to adapt a storeroom to accommodate special needs children have been rejected by the parents.

The school has just two special-needs classrooms for three special-needs classes.

Marcia Fleming has removed her 10-year-old daughter, Crea, from the autism spectrum disorders unit at Rushbrooke National School in Cobh while another parent, Amy Read, said she was considering sending her nine-year -old son, Callum, elsewhere due to his treatment by the school.

Both children returned to Rushbrooke on September 3rd but, together with a third special-needs child, they have been accommodated in a 30sq m storeroom with just a skylight in the ceiling for light, as no classroom was available.

In a statement, the Department of Education said it had carried out an analysis of children’s educational needs in the Cobh area before sanctioning the new school for Rushbrooke.

The survey had concluded that a new school with 24 mainstream classrooms and two special-needs classrooms would offer sufficient capacity, and the school agreed.

In February, however, the school wrote to say it had enrolled an additional junior-infants class in 2009.

The school said it now had 25 mainstream classes and 15 autism spectrum disorder (ASD) students and asked for an extra classroom to be built.

The department said the initial brief could not be changed because work on the school was too advanced.

It suggested the school retain its prefabs until 2016 to cater for the extra students.

However, in March the school informed the department it no longer needed the prefabs and asked to have them removed in June.

The principal at Rushbrooke, Dónal Ó Ciarán, said the decision to opt for conversion rather than use a prefab was based on the desire not to segregate the three children by isolating them in a stand-alone prefab, but rather to accommodate them within the ASD unit.

This would ensure they were close to all facilities for children with special needs, including a sensory room, time-out rooms, soft playground and enclosed area. The room offered more space for each child than the prefabs would, Mr Ó Ciaráin added.


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