PUPILS of a Co Tyrone school that was devastated by fire just days before they were due to return to class could have a new school built by 2015, the education minister has said.
John O’Dowd told the Assembly that repair work at the damaged Arvalee Special School in Omagh could see students return to part of the site as early as January.
But the minister, who had already pledged to fast-track the building of a replacement school at the new education campus planned for Lisanelly in the town, said he hoped it would open in 2015. Mr O’Dowd said he had already held talks with officials on the new build, and is to meet them again to discuss the issue which, he said, was a top priority.
The minister said: “We were presented with a catastrophe on the weekend before the school started back.
“Our immediate concern was to identify premises for the children and young people to attend. That has been successfully achieved.
“We are now looking at the medium plans, in terms of ‘can we move back onto the Arvalee site?’
“We believe through the investigations of the Western Education and Library Board that will be the case as a medium solution.
“Some of the buildings on the site can be secured, however there is a major clearance operation to take place as there is a lot of damaged material including asbestos, and I don’t wish to raise overdue concerns around that. I have instructed my officials to investigate all possible options to allow for the provision of new school buildings for Arvalee to be constructed on the Lisanelly site as a matter of urgency.”