Planning granted for expansion of St Joseph's SS in Rochfortbridge

Planning permission has been granted for a major redevelopment and expansion of St Joseph's Secondary School in Rochfortbridge.

The successful application by the board of management, 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 proposed three-storey school building will 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 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.

Included in the redevelopment plans are the provision of external play and amenity areas, including six new multi-use games areas, an outdoor classroom, a SEN garden and a “village square”.

Planning permission has also been granted for a 90 bay car park and a new pedestrian crossing across Castlelost Road.

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 the school currently has 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”.

'A significant development'

The news that the expansion plans have been go-ahead is a huge vote of confidence in the good work being carried out by staff and students at St Joseph's, according to Deputy Robert Troy.

"I want to welcome the positive decision by Westmeath County Council. This is a significant development of St Joseph's Secondary School, a very good school, with a rich tradition of providing quality education for the people of Rochfortbridge, Kinnegad and the surrounding area.

"I know the school is on a list for capital funding. Critical to this was getting planning permission. I will continue to work with Minister Norma Foley to ensure that this much needed project can proceed. The school has grown so much over the last number of years. This development will help it keep pace with that growth.

"It's a positive day for the principal, the board of management, the staff and all the students."