Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Flag day as delighted pupils parade next door to new school

One of the highest schools in Northern Ireland has opened a new chapter by moving into a new £1.5m building.

St Columba’s Primary School in Straw, a townland close to Draperstown,moved from its former cramped and ageing home to a state-of-the-art building on a neighbouring site.

School principal Geraldine Regan received the keys to the new building last week, signalling the go-ahead for 150 pupils and 17 members of staff to move after a nine-year wait.

While construction began in January, the battle to get funding for the much-needed new build goes back to 2003 and has faced many obstacles.

After plans were initially given the go-ahead, they were held up by funding cutbacks, changes in Government and logistic issues at the site such as water levels.

When funding was finally approved in August 2010, a nearby graveyard put yet another obstacle in its way.

Initial construction plans required an old section of a graveyard to be removed to make way for a footpath but the issue was resolved when a new site was found in a neighbouring field.

The new school is located on a two-acre site in the heights of the picturesque Sperrin mountains.

The building has seven spacious and modern classes, new sports facilities and extra rooms to be used for activity-based learning.

Staff and pupils marked the landmark occasion with a celebratory procession from one building to the other.

The children were moved class by class with each carrying a colourful hand-made flag representing ‘new beginnings’.

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