Omagh schools face mounting repair bills waiting for delayed Strule campus
SCHOOLS waiting to move onto a long-overdue campus now need £3 million of repairs to bring them up to scratch.
The Strule Shared Education Campus Project in Omagh will involve six schools and was due to be complete by 2020.
In February, the Department of Education suspended the procurement process for the biggest school building project in the north.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley later announced a £140 million allocation to support the project but conceded it might not open fully until 2023.
The co-location of schools in the town is intended to increase opportunities for collaboration and sharing of facilities.
A mix of grammar, non-grammar, Catholic, state and special schools will occupy the former barracks at Lisanelly. So far, just one has opened - Arvalee School and Resource Centre - which was built for £8.2m.
In the meantime, the five other schools face mounting maintenance bills.
Sacred Heart College, one of three non-selective Catholic schools due to move, is understood to need £1.8m worth of work.
Omagh High School requires more than £850,000, Loreto Grammar School £201,950, Omagh Academy £184,271 and Christian Brothers Grammar School £30,300, according to figures published by the Ulster Herald.
The costs, which are expected to rise further the longer Strule is delayed, were due to be discussed at Fermanagh and Omagh District Council last night.
It is understood that the money is required for urgent work that has already been identified.
While the education system is under severe financial pressure, the Education Authority will carry out emergency, urgent and routine maintenance work quickly and within the context of tight constraints.
Harry Mullan, chairman of Sacred Heart's board of governors, told the Ulster Herald that the school's buildings, which opened 60 years ago, had outlived their usefulness.
The Strule delay, he said, should have triggered a review of the condition of the existing schools.
"The situation is only likely to get worse and we now need a robust engagement with the Education Authority to resolve this issue," he said.
Initial projections, provided at the very early stages of planning, estimated that the project to convert the barracks at Lisanelly would be about £100m.
It is now expected to cost considerably more.
Speaking during a visit to the site this year, Ms Bradley said the allocation of £140m would help bring together 4,200 pupils from all backgrounds and enable them to interact and learn together on a vibrant and dynamic campus.