Preparations began to redeploy staff and pupils. Teachers were widely scattered across schools in Belfast, and Counties Antrim and Down. Pupils were placed in The Little Flower Girls’ Secondary, St. Patrick’s Boys’ Secondary, Edmund Rice Boys’ Secondary, Hazelwood Integrated School and the Whiteabbey children in St. Comgall’s School, Larne.
The Diocesan authorities hoped to find a buyer for the building and the site. By this stage the closure of Stella Maris Primary had been decided upon and a date fixed for the end of June 1994.
Both schools were beautiful buildings excellently maintained down the years by a succession of dedicated caretakers and cleaning staff. Teachers had taken great pains to see that their classrooms were made as attractive as possible and children’s class work was widely displayed.
Within a few weeks of closure, following the removal of all furniture and equipment by the North Eastern Education and Library Board, the looters, believed to be local loyalist paramilitaries, moved in and systematically stripped the building of all materials that could be recycled.
The operation was highly organised, parquet floors, radiators, doors, cloak rooms, toilets, wash hand basins, all copper piping and wiring and the beautiful maple floors in both gymnasia were removed. Generators were brought in to drill through corridor floors and remove large heating pipes.
Rathcoole Secondary School, another beautiful building, which closed around the same time having amalgamated with Hopefield Secodary to form the new Newtownabbey Community High School, was also plundered.
In June 1994 so eager were the looters to begin the pillaging of Stella Maris Primary that they moved into the school some days before the principal, teachers and pupils moved out. The school was due to close on Thursday the 30th June however on the preceding Monday morning shortly after classes had commenced between twenty and thirty men arrived carrying a variety of tools.
It was a beautiful summer day and most were dressed in shorts and tee shirts. They toured the premises before deciding to commence work in the empty classrooms. Word quickly spread throughout the school that ‘loyalists’ had taken over the building. The sight of heavily tattooed men quickly unnerved both children and staff and the principal and vice-principal organised a relay of cars to bring the children home.