The present school building was largely constructed in 1956. Prior to this, the original school building was found to the left of the present entrance to the school. Indeed, the very first school in the area was opened in 1870 and could be found at Sooey crossroads, between the Hennessy and Kearns residences. Unfortunately, it was an inauspicious beginning as the roof fell in during a storm in 1881!
A new school was constructed in 1883 and opened for use on July 9th of that same year. It is this building which can be seen on the cover of our school book ‘Sooey National School: A Celebration’. By the late 19th Century, there were no less than 5 National Schools in the parish of Riverstown and Sooey school would have been the largest of these.
In the 1990s
By the 1950s this school building had fallen into a state of some disrepair – a leaking roof was one of the problems listed – and it finally closed its doors in 1955 and was demolished to make way for the construction of the present school building. During construction of the present day school building, classes were moved to the neighbouring parish hall where classes recommenced in the Autumn of 1955. Classes were held there for one year whilst the school was being built.
The new school building was completed in May, 1956 and teachers and students moved to the school on June 1st, just prior to the summer holidays. The official opening ceremony was held on November, 1956 and was reported on in the Sligo Champion dated November 17th, 1956. The official name given to the school was ‘Scoil Freastógála na Maigdine Muire’ which means ‘School of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary’ and was taken from the name of the nearby parish church.
Threat of Closure
Enrolment figures throughout the 1960s and 70s remained strong yet by the early 1980’s numbers had started to decline steadily. This reflected the situation in rural Ireland at the time as many people left the country seeking a new start in England or America. In 1985, the school lost a teaching post and became a one-teacher school, which it remained as for the next 14 years.
By 1996 student numbers had declined as low as 11 and the school was facing the very real threat of imminent closure. But for the efforts of the Board of Management, the Principal, Leo Kearns and the small group of parents, the school would undoubtedly have been closed. By the late 1990s, as the country prospered, so too did Sooey N.S. By September 1998, pupil enrolments rose to 16 which meant that the school was, once again, entitled to a second teacher. This was the beginning of a new chapter in the Sooey N.S.
A New Beginning
Ironically, given the fact that the school was about to embark on a new chapter, it was also to bid farewell to Principal Leo Kearns (R.I.P.) who had served for 42 years in Sooey N.S. Leo retired on June 22nd, 2000 as the longest serving teacher to have ever taught in the school. Mr. Gately joined the school as the second teacher in September 2001.
Student numbers continued to rise steadily and by 2003, there were 43 children enrolled in the school. By 2004, for the first time in the school’s history there would be sufficient pupils to necessitate the employment of a third teacher.
This, in turn, meant the need for a third classroom. Sooey N.S. was one of only 20 school to be chosen under a national pilot scheme run by the Department of Education designed to reduce the amount of temporary accommodation required in Primary schools.
Ultimately, this resulted in the construction of the present third classroom at the rear of the school. Building work commenced in May 2004 and was completed in time for the new school year in September 2004.
Onwards and Upwards
2006 was the 50th anniversary of the present school building and a book was published to mark this significant occasion. The book was entitled ‘Sooey NS; A Celebration’. It is fitting that the book was published at a time when the school continues to flourish. In September 2008, student enrolment figures reached 95 which meant that the school became a four-teacher school – Mrs. Aiveen Scanlon was appointed. Again, this necessitated the acquisition of further school accommodation.
This facilitate this, the old water tower – constructed in 1956 with the present school building – and the school shed were demolished and replaced by a spacious pre-fabricated building which currently houses 5th and 6th Class. Today the school is home to 127 pupils – a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.
Growing all the time
2013 saw some significant changes to the school. A new extension was completed at the rear of the school which features a new classroom (home to 3rd & 4th Class this year), a Resource Teaching room, an office and a new staff room. We now also have a new playground area beside the new extension which gives the 127 pupils more room to enjoy themselves.
More recently, in September 2016, school enrolment reached 127 and Sooey N.S is now a 5-teacher school. Our newest extension at the rear of the school is home to 1st & 2nd Class and Miss Tuohy.