'Agonising wait' on closure decision as Co Tyrone primary school gathers thousands of signatures of support
PARENTS of pupils at a Co Tyrone primary school due for closure face an "agonising wait" to see if record-breaking community support to keep it open will have an impact.
St Mary's PS in Fivemiletown, which has 42 pupils, has been deemed "unsustainable" by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS), and a consultation period for responses to the proposed closure - made by the CCMS though the Education Authority with a proposed closure date of August 31 - ended on Monday.
Several MLAs have spoken out against closing the school, with calls to keep it open in order to accommodate an expected rise in enrollment resulting from housing growth in the area.
The sustainability threshold for rural primary schools is 105 pupils.
An online petition to keep the school open gathered over 8,950 signatures, which St Mary's board of governors member Mairaid Kelly said was the largest ever gathered in the north against a primary school closure.
"A few weeks ago, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest against this proposal. Many of them were parents, all of whom want the best for their children," she said, adding that the school community faced an "agonising wait" on a final decision.
"If St Mary's was unable to achieve the very best for our children, we wouldn't be fighting so passionately for its retention. We know that the range of curricular and extra-curricular activity, and support offered by highly skilled staff, benefits all of our children and enables them to strive to achieve their best.
"We also discovered that our school had seen the highest percentage growth in enrolment of any Catholic primary school in Northern Ireland, with an even higher number of admissions coming this September. At a time when primary school enrolment is falling, this really is a remarkable achievement and testament to the strengths of small schools like ours."