Planning lodged for major expansion and redevelopment of local secondary school

The board of management of St Joseph's Secondary School in Rochfortbridge has applied for planning permission for a major redevelopment of its campus.

The application submitted on August 3 includes details for the demolition of the existing two-storey main building and its extensions, as well as the construction of a new 9000 square metre three-storey school building and the refurbishment of the former Convent of Mercy.

The application also includes details for the provision of a new sports facility, the removal of all temporary classroom accommodation, the refurbishment of the Convent of Mercy house and the relocation of the Grotto.

Planning permission is also being sought for a 90 bay carpark and a new pedestrian crossing across Castlelost Road.

The proposed three-storey school building will, if given the green light by Westmeath County Council, consist of 33 general classrooms, 20 specialist teaching rooms, four special education needs (SEN) class base units, a general purpose hall, and student social spaces.

The application also includes details for external play and amenity areas, including six new multi-use games areas, an outdoor classroom, a SEN garden and a “village square”.

In a letter to Westmeath County Council, principal Margaret Cole stated that the current main building was opened in 1984 and built for an enrolment of 450, while in the coming year the school will have an enrolment of 1003.

The school has been extended and temporary classrooms added over the years, “but the main school building remains pretty much as it was in 1984”, Ms Cole said.

She also outlined what she describes as “major issues” , including circulation around the school, accessibility, canteen and toilet facilities, classrooms that are too small and common areas “not being fit for purpose”.

The decision due date for the application is September 27.