Two-year reprieve for Tin Hau school under threat of closure
International Montessori School says landlord has agreed to renew tenancy, just months before pupils were to be left without a building
An international school in Tin Hau has finally secured the renewal of its lease, ending months of concern that its 350 pupils were to be left without a campus in just four months' time. However, the new lease runs for another two years only.
Parents voiced their relief after hearing the announcement yesterday, but said they wanted to see the school's future secured beyond 2016.
Negotiations between the International Montessori School (IMS) and the Hong Kong Construction Association, which owns the site in Tin Hau Temple Road, came to a positive outcome, as both sides "reached an agreement in principle" to extend the lease until July 2016, according to the school.
"We are delighted to have secured the lease renewal. This brings continuity of education for our schoolchildren and much welcome relief from the anxiety that the entire school community has suffered in the last four months," said a statement from Karin Ann and Anne Sawyer, who founded the school 12 years ago.
The statement did not elaborate on why the association had eventually agreed to renew the lease, originally signed when the school moved to the site three years ago. Paperwork for the new lease has yet to be completed.
Just a year after the school moved in, the association announced plans to turn the site into a youth hostel in partnership with the Federation of Youth Groups, but the Education Bureau later ruled the site had to be used for educational purposes.
However, with no agreement on renewing the lease in sight, the school recently sought help from the Education Bureau and the Legislative Council.
But fears were further increased when education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim said last month that the Tin Hau campus was only temporary and his bureau would help the school if it had to look for "another temporary campus" - causing concern that the school's new campus on the other side of Hong Kong Island at Stanley would be regarded as an alternative site for the Tin Hau pupils rather than part of its expansion plans.
The new campus by Stanley Plaza is on a site granted to the school by the Education Bureau. It opened last month.
Yip King-sze, chairwoman of a parents' concern group, said: "The latest agreement is a win-win situation and we are very glad to hear of it."
She added: "At least we have two more years' breathing space. It is still very important to secure a long-term solution and we parents will continue to support the school. It is not just about renewing a lease, but also preserving the community."
While welcoming the lease agreement, the Education Bureau yesterday offered to help the Tin Hau campus find a permanent site if necessary.
"IMS is encouraged to start drawing up the long-term plan on the accommodation of its Tin Hau campus. Should IMS like to look for a permanent campus, it may apply for use of vacant school premises or greenfield sites provided by the government through the open and competitive school allocation exercise," a spokesman for the bureau said.
The association has yet to comment on the agreement.