Community urged to ‘step out for St Mary’s’

THE community is being urged to “step out” this weekend in support of St Mary’s Primary School in Fivemiletown.
Pupils from St Mary’s PS, which has been slated for closure despite soaring enrolment numbers, have been out and about around Fermanagh in recent weeks drumming up support for the much-loved school. Civic, religious and political leaders across the wider area have also given their backing to the school, which has been hailed as being at the heart of the Fivemiletown community.
With the end of the consultation process on the proposed closure of the school fast approaching, those behind the campaign to save the school have called for the public to come out to Fivemiletown this Saturday, March 25th, at 11am to join parents, children and friends of St Mary’s PS in a walk from St Mary’s Church up to the school.
The aim of the walk is to raise awareness of the campaign to save the school, and to send a message to the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and the Department of Education that small schools are a vital part of rural communities.
“We’ve received an incredible amount of support so far with our campaign, with thousands of signatures gathered on petitions online and at events across Fermanagh and Tyrone in recent weeks,” said chairman of the school’s board of governors, Fergal Foy.
“This Saturday, with thanks to the Parades Commission and PSNI, we will be walking with our children from St Mary’s Church in Fivemiletown up to St Mary’s school, and we would love to see as many people as possible coming along to join us as we send the strongest possible message that our school is the heart of our community, and we will fight together to save it.
“This is your opportunity to build on the fantastic support base we have and help us to save St Mary’s.”
The statutory objection period, during which the public has been encouraged to write to the Department to give their views on the proposal to close the school, will be open until April 8th. Mr Foy once again expressed the board’s disappointment at the lack of engagement in the process by the CCMS.
“At no point during this whole process have CCMS had the courtesy to meet with us and actually consider the concrete evidence we have to show that we are sustainable now and can grow in the future,” he said.
“They have continuously hidden behind excuses about processes and avoided our questions. We have tried to engage numerous times in multiple ways, and all we get back are the same standard responses that amount to nothing in terms of proper discussion.
“We know they are feeling the mounting pressure on them, because they have finally offered to meet with the governors, but with no actual date being provided, time is running out for any such meeting to be meaningful. This might just be a matter of pushing some paperwork through a process for them, but this is our children’s futures, and our community will fight tooth and nail to do what’s right for them.
“Please help if you can by walking with us on Saturday to show small schools are not only sustainable, but a vital part of our rural communities.”

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