HKIS rejects interim school site at Hung Hom

Elite school halts HK$1 billion redevelopment project indefinitely as a temporary Hung Hom site is deemed too polluted for pupils

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2013, 4:34am

The redevelopment of the Hong Kong International School's Repulse Bay campus has been put on hold after the management rejected a second temporary site offered by the Education Bureau.

The school has decided to drop its plan to move its lower primary pupils to the Hung Hom site currently occupied by the English Schools Foundation's Kowloon Junior School.

The school had earlier rejected an offer to relocate to Chai Wan, a 25-minute drive away, citing transport issues.

The school confirmed yesterday that the redevelopment had been put on hold indefinitely until a suitable temporary site could be identified.

"The HKIS board and administration remain committed to our lower primary redevelopment project at our Repulse Bay campu s," a spokeswoman said in response to an inquiry from the South China Morning Post.

"We do not have an exact start date for the project, as we cannot begin construction until we find a place to relocate our students."

The school had planned to start the three-year project in August last year after moving some 500 pupils to a temporary location.

But following complaints from the Repulse Bay community, the school scaled down the development plan, which now includes a staff residence and school building of up to eight storeys, rather than 18, as originally planned.

The new plans were approved by the Town Planning Board in June last year.

Failing to start the HK$1 billion redevelopment would mean that the school will not be able to add 200 extra new international primary level places in the next few years, as previously planned.

An Education Bureau spokeswoman said both the Chai Wan and Hung Hom sites were offered to the school after considering its preferences.

However, parents complained in a letter to Head of School Kevin Dunning in November that the Hung Hom site on Gillies Avenue South would be harmful to pupils' health.

The stated various reasons, including the proximity to emissions from traffic and car repair shops, as well as joss paper and incense burning at a nearby temple and funeral houses.

"We have made this decision to live in a polluted city on behalf of our children as well, but we do our best to keep them away from ... heavy pollutants," said the letter, written by Richard and Kat Price, parents of a girl enrolled at the school.

It is now unclear how the school can start the project as the Education Bureau says the Hung Hom site is the only one of four vacant school premises suitable for temporary use.

The three others have been slated for other projects, the bureau said.

HKIS is one of the most expensive international schools in Hong Kong, charging more than HK$160,000 per year - including an annual capital levy - for lower primary pupils for the current academic year.

Hung Hom District Councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung said that while he had received complaints about the funeral parlours in the district, the Kwun Yam temple had fitted in well with the community.

He added that the Gillies Avenue South site had been used as a school for decades. Yum believed the school's rejection was more likely to be related to its distance from the Repulse Bay campus.