Work is finally underway on a new school building for Parkhall Integrated College with work due to be completed by September 2017.
Contractors began work on securing the site at the start of the month, finally signalling the start of the long-promised new school build.
Principal George Beattie said: “After too many years of raised expectation, delay and disappointment, the announcement of a £15,000,000-plus contract being awarded to Newry firm, O’Hare and McGovern, has taken the dream a massive step closer to reality.”
The new building, to be completed for September 2017, will provide purpose built ‘state of the art’ accommodation for 735 pupils, finally returning all the Parkhall pupils and staff onto one site.
Mr Beattie added: “The extensive teaching provision is further supplemented by the inclusion of a new youth and community wing that will allow further development of the extensive evening programmes already in operation at the both the Steeple Road and Birchill Road sites.
“The development of new grass football, rugby and cricket pitches, new tennis courts and a full size synthetic hockey/multi sports arena will be a massive boost for the sports provision in Parkhall and will hopefully allow greater usage by community sports teams in the future.”
Describing it as a “significant financial investment” by the Education Minist in this new school facility, Mr Beattie added: “This huge statement of support gives us great confidence as we move forward as a core provider of post primary education within the Borough of Antrim.”
He added: “We have looked forward to this work beginning for many years and progress has now happened very quickly over the past few weeks.
“It has been a huge boost to all of our teaching and support staff to see the work begin - coping on a split site for so long has been very difficult for staff and it is enormous credit to everyone that during this time our GCSE five A*-C grades have continued to rise to a record breaking high of 82% in 2015, a further rise of 10% from 2014.
“Whilst it has been unfortunate that so many of our past pupils have not had the opportunity to enjoy learning in a new school environment, it is wonderful to be able to look forward to how we can further develop the educational provision within Antrim in the future.
“In sharing the Steeple Road campus with our neighbours, Antrim Grammar School, I feel there is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that all children within the Borough have access on the campus to a high quality educational experience, here in Antrim, regardless of ability, religion or socio-economic background.
“This investment will not only be a huge boost for the local community but it will also be a major boost for the construction industry in general across the province.”