THE community in Fivemiletown and its neighbouring areas ‘stepped out’ this morning in support of St Mary’s Primary School, which is under threat of closure.
As can be seen in the video below, a huge crowd took to the streets of Fivemiltown this morning (Saturday, March 25th) for a walk from St Mary’s Church to the school. In recent weeks, pupils from St Mary’s – which has been slated for closure despite soaring enrolment numbers – have been out and about around Fermanagh in recent weeks to raise awareness of the campaign to save the school. The campaign has drawn cross-community support from both local religious leaders and political representatives.
The aim of this morning’s walk – which was held as the consultation process on the proposed closure fast approaches – was 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.
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.
Speaking ahead of today’s demonstration, Mr Foy 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.”
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