Parents fight school relocation

'Destructive' plan to evict Montessori unit from Tin Hau site to make way for youth hostel getting scant government attention, group says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 4:22am

A group of parents say the government is dragging its feet in resolving a situation that could see an international school evicted to make way for a youth hostel.

They said that if the authorities did not intervene, the International Montessori School would be asked to move for the fourth time in a decade, which they described as destructive for their children.

The South China Morning Post reported in August that the school could be kicked out of the campus on Tin Hau Temple Street in two years because the Federation of Youth Groups had shown interest in co-operating with the school's landlord, the Construction Association, to build a 1,000-unit hostel there.

The school moved on to the site in 2010, and its lease with the association runs until 2014.

The government announced in July that it planned to spend HK$1 billion to build 3,000 hostel units for young people across the city. It would pay the construction costs of the units on land granted to NGOs.

Damian Coory, a consultant and father of two, called the relocation plan ridiculous and criticised the government for the lack of support for home-grown international schools. The move would bring inconvenience to the family in Tin Hau, he said.

"We're running out of patience, and we're giving the government only a little bit more time," Coory said.

He said the parents would "make more noise" if the government failed to respond to the matter soon.

"It's premature to say where we would go [if the school has to move]. We're not going to go," he said. "We only hope that common sense will prevail."

Yip King-sze, whose two children aged four and six attend in the school, said it would be disappointing if the government made them move.

"I don't know what to do. This would be a major disruption, as the children's routine would be disrupted, while they thrive on routines and certainties."

She urged the government to give more attention to the lack of international-school places.

School founders Ann Sawyer and Karin Ann said they had been talking to the Education Bureau and the Home Affairs Bureau. They said they remained hopeful.

The government should look into other possible sites, instead of "upsetting more than 1,000 parents and children", they said.

The school, the largest Montessori school in Asia, is going through an accreditation process by the Montessori Foundation. After completion, it would be the only accredited Montessori school in Greater China.

Margot Garfield-Anderson, public relations co-ordinator for the foundation, said the school was doing well in the accreditation and it would not want to see it asked to move.

The Education Bureau said it acknowledged the school's contribution to the international-school sector in the city and it would remain in contact to provide facilitation and assistance.

The Home Affairs Bureau said the discussions with NGOs on their plans to build youth hostels were at an exploratory stage and noted the school's concern.