The Education Minister has been urged to make funds available for a new school builuding in Islandmagee as a matter of urgency.
Kilcoan Primary and Mullaghdubh Primary are set to effectively merge into a single controlled school – Islandmagee PS – which will operate at both sites from September.
While being split across two sites is perhaps not an ideal situation, it is hoped the amalgamation will strengthen the case for a new-build on a site purchased over a decade ago by the North-Eastern Education and Library Board.
And East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons, along with a delegation from the school, has taken the matter directly to Education Minister John O’Dowd.
Speaking following a meeting with Mr O’Dowd at Stormont, the DUP representative told the Times: “The new school build is something the local community have been working towards for many years.
“I am delighted that the Minister has said that a new building is guaranteed for the school following the amalgamation of Mullaghdubh and Kilcoan Primary Schools.
“Despite this being dependant on funding being made available, I believe that we have made a very strong case as to why Islandmagee Primary School should be a priority when the next set of capital projects is announced.
“The schools and the local community have made the difficult move to amalgamate before a new school is built. They have acted in good faith according to what was expected of them by the Department .”
At the latest monthly meeting of Mid and East Antrim Council, members agreed to support the school’s bid for new premises.
The motion was proposed by Cllr Rev Paul Reid and was backed by a majority of 32 for with none against (two members did not vote).
Putting it to the meeting, Cllr Reid pointed out that his proposal had the support of all five Larne Lough DEA members.
He said that the amalgamation of two schools on a split site would mean more travelling for parents who have pupils at both schools, adding “the best way forward” would be for a new build school on one site for Islandmagee Primary.
Seconding the motion, Cllr Mark McKinty said the issue had been ongoing since 2003 stating “this motion is an investment for Council and the people it represents” and called on council to “show its support and give some hope to parents and potential parents of Islandmagee Primary School”.
Ald Gregg McKeen proposed that Council should also write to the Minister “to say this does have the support of Council that we are pressing for the new build to be carried out as soon as possible”.
Cllr Robert Logan added: “The two schools that are coming together are really no longer fit for purpose. I think we should support Ald McKeen’s suggestion.
“There have been broken promises after broken promises ... the people of Islandmagee deserve better,” he said.
Cllr Jim Brown pointed out that he was a former member of the NEELB which, he said, put together a case for a new primary school for Islandmagee.
He added, however, that he wanted to issue “a note of caution to members rightly pushing for a new school because there could be casualties and one of those casualties could be Ballycarry Primary School”.
Cllr Reid said he agreed with the suggestion that a letter be sent to the Education Minister but not with Cllr Brown’s cautionary remark.
“This will in no way affect Ballycarry or any other primary school in the area,” Cllr Reid stated.