Anger at transfer by elite school
A plan to move hundreds of pupils at a top international school to temporary premises inside a public housing estate has angered their well-off parents.
The Hong Kong International School proposes to demolish its lower primary school building in Repulse Bay and redevelop it into what it says will be a first-class facility.
During the three-year project - the first major redevelopment of the Repulse Bay campus since the school started in 1966 - about 500 pupils aged five to eight would be taught in a disused school building in Chai Wan, a 25-minute drive away.
The plan has ignited debate ahead of a meeting today of the Town Planning Board, which will be asked to approve it.
'Why should we pay the highest school fees in Hong Kong for a temporary, reconditioned school?' a parent asked in an e-mail circulating among a group of parents.
The temporary site, which the e-mail says will expose children to 'pollution, sub-standard facilities and overcrowding', is the former Fung Yiu Hing Memorial Primary School in Yue Wan public housing estate. The school closed a few years ago due to a lack of pupils.
The Repulse Bay redevelopment plan has also drawn opposition from residents of nearby South Bay Close, who say it will increase pollution and cause traffic congestion.
'As most students from HKIS are from well-to-do families, most of them have their own chauffeur to drive them to and from school,' resident Karin Fattedad said in a submission to the board. 'We are worried the traffic will be uncontrollable.'
Under the HK$980 million plan, the new campus - to be opened in 2015 - will include an 18-storey building with quarters for 70 staff as well as an 850-seat assembly hall, gymnasium, swimming pool, and 81 parking and goods-handling spaces.
Only three of 49 submissions sent to the board during a public consultation supported the plan.
A submission by resident Michael Wong said: 'Traffic will increase by a minimum of 20 per cent. The Town Planning Board can really do a great thing by helping stop it from getting much worse.'
The school has been telling existing and prospective parents that due to the construction work, 515 pupils from Reception 2 to Grade 2 will have to move to Chai Wan from next academic year.
Reception 1 pupils will move to its existing campus in Tai Tam.
Concerned parents are understood to be soliciting support for a campaign to stop the relocation plan by lodging complaints to Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung and other officials.
The school says the Chai Wan building was the only one on Hong Kong Island offered by the Education Bureau. School bus services will be arranged, but private vehicles will not be allowed near the Chai Wan site.
'We will equip the school to be an exceptional early learning facility. What matters is that the quality of the education will remain as good as it always has been,' Pat Hall, HKIS Director of Facilities Management.
Hall added that the Repulse Bay project would alleviate traffic problems as staff who currently commute to work will no longer have to do so.
He said there was a need for new staff quarters due to the need to attract the best talents and rising rent costs elsewhere. 'If we can manage the cost of housing, this will be a direct benefit to parents, it will keep tuition fee charges to a minimum.
'Our fees rose only 4 per cent last year, in the face of a double-digit rise in housing costs - to keep the best education affordable, it is good business sense to manage housing costs,' he said. The school said the project would not be funded by tuition fees.
The annual tuition fee in Hong Kong dollars for the 2011/2012 school year for Reception 2 to Grade 5 pupils at Hong Kong International School