Student Fionn O'Brien cuts the tape to open Coláiste na hInse watched by (from left) Meath VEC chairperson John Fanning, CEO Peter Kierans, acting principal Gerard O'Leary and principal Anne-Marie McCarrick.
Four years after Coláiste na hInse opened its doors in the unconventional setting of the Neptune Beach Hotel in Bettystown, the school's new state-of-the-art building was unveiled to students for the first time last Thursday morning.
Colaiste na hInse's 620 students were full of anticipation as they awaited the first glimpse of their fabulous new school building and they were not disappointed.
The stunning construction, which is bright and modern and features a coastal theme reflecting the school's position just across from the sea, is a far cry from its first home in the Neptune Beach Hotel and its subsequent home in a series of prefabs on the current school site.
On Thursday morning, the school community assembled at the prefabs where they had been attending classes for over two years and where they had returned to classes earlier in the week after the summer break.
The morning's proceedings began with the students making their way from the prefabs to the new school entrance and the original cohort of 80 students who started first year in 2008 proceeded through the centre of the body of students to the door of the new school.
School principal Anne-Marie McCarrick made a return to the school from maternity leave for the occasion after giving birth to a baby girl just three weeks earlier.
She led the students to the door while ringing the old bell from the school's time in the Neptune Hotel and Fionn O'Brien, who was the first student enrolled in the school, was given the honour of cutting the ribbon.
The students then made their way into the new school to their new assembly. Student representative Celine McMahon, who is in sixth year, spoke to the newer students about what it was like to attend school in the Neptune Hotel.
She told students how much more difficult things were then, how at one stage a helicopter had crashed into the school yard, how a ceiling had once collapsed and how some classes were held in the hotel's bar.
Parents association chairperson Sean O'Dwyer also spoke and was followed by Ms McCarrick who recalled how the school had developed its own unique ethos despite difficult circumstances and how they would be bringing this ethos to the new school.
"The building will make it easier to educate but it is no replacement for what we have built up in the school, where we have a real spirit. A spirit of determination to succeed, a refusal to be pidgeon-holed by others and a sense of pride and ambition. It is important that we bring that with us," said Ms McCarrick.
She said the new school was a fabulous facility and, even on a dull day, the bright colours give a lift with the coastal theme evident throughout.
However, Ms McCarrick said the school had never been about the building and had always been about the people. She said the school has wonderful students, gifted and dedicated teachers and supportive parents, many of whom had taken a huge leap of faith in sending their children to Coláiste na hInse.
"Some of the best educating was done in hedge schools and some of the worst in palaces, it is not about the place, it is about the people," she added.
Ms McCarrick thanked County Meath VEC for its work in bringing the new school to fruition. She wished acting principal, Gerard O'Leary, and deputy principal, Susan Campbell, well, adding that they were doing a great job.
Meath VEC CEO Peter Kierans complimented the parents who trusted the vision presented for the school in 2008 and placed their trust in the VEC that it would deliver a quality education. He also thanked all the parents who followed suit, leading to a dramatic rise in the numbers attending the school.
There are now in excess of 600 students in Colaiste na hinse and numbers are set to grow. The new school building is designed to accommodate 1,00 students.
Acting principal Gerard O'Leary said the reaction from the students was "fabulous".
He added: "They were delighted with the facilities in the school and thought it was really bright. They loved the way the colours of the sea, which is just across the road, has been brought into the classrooms."