Frustrated parents seek government help in school lease talks

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 3:46am

About 20 parents of pupils at an international school in Tin Hau yesterday lodged an official complaint with the Legislative Council over the government's refusal to intervene in the school's lease negotiations with its landlord.

The International Montessori School's lease is up in July and parents are angry that the Education Bureau is refusing to get involved in its talks with landlord the Construction Association, despite the fact the association was granted the site for educational use. The bureau says the tenancy is a private matter.

Parents warned that "unpredictability" in the international school system and a lack of places was pushing some expats to move out of the city.

Some 350 pupils study at the Tin Hau site, the 12-year-old school's home for three years. The school has been granted a building in Stanley, but insists it is for expansion. Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim, however, said earlier this month that the new campus was to replace the "temporary" Tin Hau site.

"One thing the government can do is provide predictability," said one parent, Karen Bergan. "Frustration among us is palpable because now it becomes unpredictable."

She said a colleague of her husband at an international bank left Hong Kong for Singapore due to a lack of school places.

The government said last year that by 2016, the city would see a shortage of 4,200 international primary school places.

Yip King-sze, spokeswoman for the parents' concern group, said the school had moved three times in 10 years.

The concern group believes the Construction Association plans to develop a hostel for young people on the site with the Home Affairs Bureau. The Education Bureau said the site should remain for educational use, while the Home Affairs Bureau said it had no plans to build a hostel.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the government had passed the buck by trying to "privatise the issue". He said lawmakers would meet education officials to discuss it.

Meanwhile, the school denied reports that its principal, Nicolette Correy, was dismissed by her former employer, the Melbourne Montessori School, for hiring a teacher with fake qualifications. It said she resigned from the school and that her integrity was "of the highest order".