BY MARTIN WALSH
THE successful blending of the new extension to Rathbarry National School with the original structure that was built in 1950 was a theme constantly mentioned during the official opening ceremony. In idyllic conditions, the well-attended ceremony marked a historic occasion for the parish. Indeed, such is the fusion and sensitive development of the extension (that is actually larger than the original school) one could be forgiven for thinking the seat of learning had ever undergone a transformation.
Perhaps, it was also significant that a former pupil, Clare O’Donovan-Scanlan, of Operation Transformation fame, performed the official opening.
Clare’s father, Christy, is a former pupil along with her brothers Noel and Aidan while her late son, Darra, also attended the school. ‘It was lovely to be asked, I got great support from the area during Operation Transformation. I have great memories here, it was different times.’
Clare spoke of the friendships that are developed during school days: ‘They last for life,’ as she referred to her own friendships with Elaine O’Donovan and Carmel Whelton.
Earlier in the proceedings, master of ceremonies Niall O’Sullivan introduced the various speakers that included Cllr Joe Carroll, Deputy Mayor of the County of Cork; Marjorie Walsh, school principal; John Norris, board of management; Mrs Ann Kearns, former school principal, and Fr Pat McCarthy, who blessed the building. Also in attendance were Dáil Deputies Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, Jim Daly and Michael Collins,
Former chairperson of the board of management and a former pupil Frank Harte outlined the school’s history: ‘The school was built in 1950 but it wasn’t occupied until 1952 and there were 48 pupils. There is a lot of equipment now compared to when we were going to school.
‘Interestingly, the new classroom is 80 square metres, which is standard, and if the two original classrooms were put together they would total 64 square metres.”
The school, now with some 57 pupils, qualified for a third teacher last year and according to principal Marjorie Walsh the extension and the third teacher are of major importance.
‘It meant so much to the school, and particularly to the pupils, as each child gets great attention. It allows us bring all the children together in one space if we want to, for example, when the centenary came around we were able to accommodate them in this classroom.’
The extension incorporates a spacious classroom, a toilet block, staffroom, office, library and an assembly area. Ms Walsh added: ‘It’s a fantastic development and has made an enormous difference to the overall efficiency and the educational experience of all the pupils concerned.’
The entertainment on Friday last was provided by the pupils, with arts and drama very much part of the school’s curriculum, the talent was also widely recognised. Ms Walsh, who only took up the post of principal last September, commented: ‘Their artistic and musical talents are remarkable and whenever we set about tasks in art or music they do it with great success. They make the music talk, so to speak.
‘They bring so much joy to so many people. The classes are conducted by Martina French and Ann-Marie O’Brien.’