Purchasing a site and building the school


Finding a site for the school.

The survival of the project depended on whether or not the current and potential cooperative members could see that progress was made. The situation at Villa Maria Teresa was less than encouraging. Parents needed to know that things were moving ahead and see tangible results.

So, the first step was to purchase a site for the school. Having visited a series of potential locations, a large site was selected on a hill near the motorway, just off the Errondo-Ayete road.

In mid-August 1976, while some parents were busy renovating Villa María Teresa, others were signing the deeds on a plot of land on behalf of St. Patrick's Cooperative School.

Architect Juan Dorronsoro Peñagaricano was commissioned to design the building, and oversee the building project. The proposed building had to be big enough to accommodate two streams per year, from Pre-school to Pre-University, and comply with the official Ministry of Education guidelines.

Official regulations, and other concerns.

At the end of the 1976/77 school year, it was made clear that if the school wanted to teach the compulsory secondary education cycle, they would need eight classrooms measuring 56 square meters to comply with the Department of Education requirements.

So they needed to find a more suitable location. The Governing Board approved the decision and the Works Committee set to work.

Having studied several options, the school moved into Sacred Heart school in Miraconcha.

Meanwhile, the Communications Committee had launched a strenuous campaign to encourage new families to join the cooperative by putting up posters all over the city, as far away as Lasarte and Zarautz.

The star of this publicity launch was undoubtedly a 30-minute promotional video which was shown in all the cinemas and theatres in San Sebastian in March, April, May and June, 1977.

All of this required considerable investment but no subsidies were available at the time. It was up to the Governing Board to come up with an attractive but affordable school. The school fees had to cover the refurbishment costs, overheads, and particularly the staff's salaries, but if costs went out of control, it would signal the end of the school.

It would take some time to overcome the initial economic difficulties and show everyone that the project was up and running.

External financial support.

As no grants or subsidies were forthcoming, the money the members themselves had invested was the school´s only source of income.

During the first few months, the parents made small contributions to cover the cost of setting up the Cooperative. But by the time the first school year came round, fixed school fees were established to cover the running costs of the school.

A cooperative membership fee was also included, which was initially non-refundable. Later, however, this increment went towards a share in the cooperative, and could be reimbursed after the last child in the family had finished the school.

In September 1977, the procedure for becoming a new cooperative member was formalised, and the sum of sixty thousand pesetas was set as the joining fee.

The major challenge: financing the new building.

On 27 January 1978, the Declaration of Social Interest of St. Patrick's School was published in the State Official Gazette, allowing the construction work on the new school to commence. The Governing Board appointed cooperative member José Manuel Ureizti as the building contractor for the new school building, representing the interests of the cooperative.

However, approval was still pending for a bridging loan to cover the difference between the building costs and the loan from Banco de Crédito a la Construcción. Eventually, an application for a loan was made to the Provincial Gipuzkoa and Municipal Savings Bank of San Sebastian.

The loan was granted on condition that the parents signed as full guarantors, yet another challenge the members had to face. Practically all the members signed this act of commendable generosity, reflecting the depth of their commitment to the school. Coincidentally, the two hundred and ten guarantors signed the 8-page loan contract on 17 March 1979, St. Patrick's Day.

The first grants.

Once the school had all its teaching permits in order, the school principal, accompanied by members of the Governing Board travelled to Madrid to negotiate subsidies to mitigate the financial burden on the parents and the school.

Slowly, the grants started coming in, initially covering the cost of building new classrooms and classroom material. Finally, just in time for the 79/80 school year, the school received the grant for secondary education.

However, still more help was needed as the cost of the new building slowly kept rising. The initial building estimate was around sixty million pesetas, but after several modifications and upgrades, the figure now stood at just over two-hundred million pesetas.