A brand, spanking new wing of St Patrick's de la Salle boys school, a special education unit for 17 young boys and Jenna Dooley was blessed, opened and celebrated last Friday at the Kilkenny city school.
In a heart warming ceremoney enjoyed by the students, staff and invited guests, the new unit proved to be an absolute sensation to those who had just a little wonder around.
As the school sang, recited poetry and prayed for their latest addition, it was certainly a unique occasion and an incredible achievement for all involved as just four years ago - and the country in the teeth of a recession - the first suggesstion was made to create this unit.
Now, to the benefit of all the pupils and the entire school community, the unit is a thriving, happy place.
You could not have asked for a better Master of Ceremonies than Lapo Olival, who after introducing a poetry rendition and singing from the well-tuned school choir, asked Principal Joe McKeown to the podium to say a few words.
Mr McKeown thanked all involved in making the project such a success, from those involved in all aspects of education, the construction of the building, the parents and the many fund raising ventures.
“Investment in education is never wasted,” said the Principal.
Lapo welcomed the 'previous' principal, Brian Cody, also to address the gathering. Mr Cody was principal when the project began and for most of its development. “This school, St Patrick's de la Salle, has had many great reasons to celebrate over the years, but this surpasses everything, it's a wonderful event. The happiness that has been enjoyed on this journey has to be seen to be believed.”
He recalled the first meeting with Margaret Kennedy, the first four autistic pupils to the school and noted the devotion to the children from their teaching staff.
He thanked Mr McKeown for his outstadng work with the development of the unit.
“The teaching staff have shown outstanding devotion and dedication, they have met challenges and upskilled. It has been so uplifting, and it opened up a whole new world for this school community.
“From four pupils in the first year, it went to eleven the second year and now there are 18 pupils in the unit,” said Mr Cody.
The premises was blessed by Bishop Seamus Freeman, who offered his best wishes to the school and congratulated them on their development.
The unit is really a joy to behold with classrooms, sensory rooms, a canteen - each detailed done to the finest. Full of light and welcoming, it is stocked with the latest in equipment for both work and play - much of it thanks to the fundraising from the school community.
At present 18 pupils are enrolled in St Patrick's De La Salle unit.
In the city of Kilkenny, there is a waiting list, with fourteen families unsure where their children will be educated next year. The De La Salle obviously has the room and the will to expand, and if ever there was a shining example of the very best practise in special needs education, St Patrick's De La Salle is it.
For those present last Friday, it will certainly be remembered as an inclusive, heart warming and progressive event enjoyed by all, and for all. Community at its best.