City school set for major expansion

A major expansion at Newtown School, with an anticipated investment totalling €16 million, is set to be delivered by 2022 and will pave the way for a 50 per cent increase in student numbers. As detailed in the school’s project brochure: “This major development plan will ensure that Newtown School Waterford is in a position to accommodate some 600 students and continue to be one of the most admired and sought after schools in Ireland for generations to come.”

A concept drawing of how the €16m project at Newtown School may look upon completion.

A concept drawing of how the €16m project at Newtown School may look upon completion.

“It is all very exciting,” said Redmond O’Donoghue, who is Board of Management Chairman at the city school which dates back to 179The planning permission application for the project was recently submitted and school officials are hopeful that if all initial planning stages are passed (without appeals, that is), construction could commence within a year. Interestingly, funding for the project is already fully in place and has been approved by the Department of Education for a plan which features a compelling design, combining old with new. The construction project is set to take 32 months to complete

According to school literature: “This major investment programme will result in virtually all classrooms being rebuilt and modernised to the highest standards. A Special Needs unit with its own dedicated garden will be added. Newtown’s existing social spaces, kitchen and dining facilities will be redeveloped, and all new Sports Hall will be constructed.” Some of Newtown’s 20th Century buildings will be replaced by hi-spec classrooms on two adjoining blocks over three levels, occupying the current footprint.

Under the design plans seen by this newspaper, the location of the new buildings “will protect Newtown’s delightful open parkland areas, preserving this green oasis in the heart of Waterford city”.
The brochure adds: “Additionally, Newtown has plans to improve and extend its boarding facilities by the addition of a new boarding wing to accommodate a further 32 boarders. The plans include the development of a new forum facility to provide additional social and performance spaces for Newtown’s students, particularly boarders.” Speaking to The Munster Express, Redmond O’Donoghue said the new sports hall will occupy 1150 square metres adjacent to the current swimming pool. According to the school: “This hall will accommodate Newtown’s daily collect assembly and facilitate indoor sports, including badminton and basketball. Outdoor ball courts for tennis, football and hockey practice will be built near Newtown’s two new rugby pitches and its new Tigerturf high performance hockey pitch. Wyse House, the spiritual home of Newtown School Waterford since the 1780s, will undergo a significant renovation which will ensure its long term future at the heart of all school activities.”

As per the school’s traditional Quaker ethos, a moment of quiet contemplation is held daily for students during assembly at 8.40am. The Governing body of the School retains its Quaker ethos, even though its expansion project is being paid by the State. Following changes introduced by former Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, the school is now non fee paying and both numbers and demand have risen since its move to the Free Scheme in 2014.Boarders at Newtown now number 115 and they pay €10,000 per annum (approximately) with dormitories in different buildings for male and female students. Work on this wing is expected to cost €2.5m, and is subject to building sufficient capital prior to its green lighting.

The total area due to be built runs to a massive 10,000 square metres (almost 108,000 square feet). This all points towards a positive move for the city in terms of educational provision, a further boost in addition to the pending expansion of nearby Waterpark College. In total, there are seven schools in this busy part of the city: Newtown School, Newtown Primary, De La Salle College, Waterpark College, St Declan’s Primary, St John of God’s Primary and Christ Church Primary. Newtown School has a strong tradition and is nationally known as a multi denominational seat of learning and its ambitious plan will further enhance this part of the city.
Its students achieve high grades while it also housed some illustrious past pupils such as actor Ralph Fiennes, historian Roy Foster and singers Sinead O’Connor and Leslie Dowdall. Current Principal Keith Lemon told this newspaper that he is “delighted with the prospect of a new building on our campus, one which will seamlessly blend old and new”.

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