THE official ‘First Sod Cutting’ event to mark the start of the construction of the new school for Braidside was held on Monday, January 14.
The ceremony was led by Ken Cathcart, one of the families who established the school in 1989 and who was also the first chair of the Board of Governors.
There was great excitement for some of the current pupils, who attended the sod-cutting, as this was also their first visit to the site and who are eagerly looking forward to the new school opening.
Also in attendance was Principal Julie McAuley, previous Principal Robert Scott, members of the Board of Governors, the contractors Glasgiven Contracts Ltd, Project Managers WYG and the Project Management team for the build, who have been fundamental in ensuring the success of this project.
This new school build has been long awaited by everyone at Braidside and the local community. When Braidside Integrated Primary was founded in 1989, it was amidst much scepticism that such a school in Ballymena could attract enough pupils to remain open. The school operated in an old shirt factory until they secured the current Fry’s Road site.
In 1992, pre-fabricated buildings were put on site as a temporary measure until a new school was built. Despite 27 years in temporary accommodation, with less than perfect facilities, Braidside has continued to offer excellent child centred education, focused on bringing out the full potential of each and every child passing through its doors. This has led to an increase in pupil numbers from 50 when it first opened, to around 300 today.
Over the years, Braidside has remained steadfastly committed to the Integrated principles that inspired its foundation. Primarily this is a belief that integrated education provides children with the best start in life. It is the express aim of the school to bring the two main cultures of Northern Ireland together to help build a more peaceful, harmonious future, alongside people from many other faiths and backgrounds.
Construction is making great progress, following a period of demolition and asbestos removal between August and November.
In the last 6 weeks, the foundation excavations and trench fill have now been completed along with the sub-structure blockwork. The floor slabs are being laid in the incoming week and construction of the walls will commence later this month.
Julie McAuley, Principal said: “This is a wonderful day for all those associated with Braidside over the last 30 years. We are incredibly excited to see construction started and we are really looking forward to having a school building fit for the 21st Century; which meets the needs of children, staff and parents for years to come.
“Our much anticipated building is important not only for the children currently enrolled but secures the future provision of integrated primary education in the area.”
The school are extremely grateful to the Department of Education Northern Ireland, who are funding the new school build through the Fresh Start Programme.
Thanks also go to Ken Cathcart in his role as Chair of the Integrated Education Fund, who have supported the school both in the early days and also with a recent grant to promote our school and encourage further growth.