Economic benefits of at least £89 million are expected to flood into the Dungannon District with the announcement that plans for two new state-of-the-art school buildings, which had been dogged by delays and frustration for over a decade, have finally got the go ahead.
Education Minister John O’Dowd revealed that work will begin next year on the ambitous new building for St Patrick’s Academy in response to an update request from Sinn Fein MLA Bronwyn McGahan.
The minister also said that work will soon begin on a new building for Edendork Primary School.
“In the case of St Patrick’s Academy the estimated cost of £27 million will result in an estimated potential investment to our economy of £77 million”, he said.
He added that the £4 million cost of Edendork Primary School would benefit the local economy by about £11 million.
“Not only do the schools benefit from this; certainly, the construction industry also benefits, as does our local economy”, he said.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative Bronwyn McGahan welcomed the announcement and said that it would be a great boost not only for the parents, students and teachers involved with the schools but also the wider community.
“It’s great to have some good news for the community amid all the threatened cuts to services and benefits due to the Tory governent’s freeze on the block grant.”
In 2011, the two school buildings were temporarily mothballed because of severe budget constraints on the education department.
At the time it was believed that the size of the new schools had left them vulnerable to budget cuts.
The department first announced that St Patrick’s Academy was to get a new building in spring 2003 but various complications in 2005, outside the school’s control, meant that plans were put on hold for three years.
In 2008, at the beginning of the economic downturn, governors and trustees were informed by the department that progress could, at last, recommence.
However, uncertainty over budgets meant the plans were placed in jeopardy, along with those of another 55 new school buildings in Northern Ireland.
The major investment follows the announcement of £1million in March to be spent on easing the pressures on overcrowded local schools.