Parents celebrate relocation victory

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 May, 2009, 12:00am

Parents of pupils at a leading international school have won a battle against having their children temporarily moved from The Peak to Ma On Shan.

The German Swiss International School said yesterday that the 300 upper primary students - displaced by planned renovations - would instead be moved to a disused school building in Wan Chai.

The school board, which said a little more than a month ago that it was determined to go ahead with the move, had faced a parents' revolt amid threats to vote its members out of office. Instead of Ma On Shan, the children will be moved to a building at 30 Oi Kwan Road that most recently housed the Victoria Shanghai Academy. A school spokesman said the decision had been made after the board was alerted to that alternative by 'a few supportive parents'.

But the move, originally planned for next year, will have to be delayed until 2012 because the building will be occupied until then by the secondary section of the Singapore International School. Lower primary students will move to a new campus in Pok Fu Lam next year, as planned.

A spokesman for a parent coalition welcomed the sudden change but was unsure whether they would abandon plans for a motion to replace the board at an extraordinary general meeting.

'This is a great result for our children and a fitting reward for all the parents who fought so long against the move to Ma On Shan,' the spokesman said.

However, parents who had removed their children from the school to avoid the move, or who had taken their children off the waiting list because of the plan, were not so happy.

'What am I going to do now?' asked one mother who had pulled her two children out of the school's primary section.

One child has been accepted by the Canadian International School but the other is still on a waiting list. 'It's very arrogant of the board. They didn't accommodate the wishes of people who wanted to help. It's such a mess now. There is no clear vision and guidelines. The board is not to be trusted and they need to be sacked,' she said.

The school spokesman said: 'A few supportive parents alerted the school about the Wan Chai site and helped the school enter into an agreement. [It was an] unexpected, swift and singularly satisfying development. GSIS is very excited to become part of the culturally rich Wan Chai community.'

Despite the two-year delay, the spokesman said it was a 'great solution' that would be cheaper than the move to Ma On Shan. Board chairman Ulrich Buchholtz signed a lease agreement on Tuesday with the Wan Chai Kai-Fong Welfare Association, which is providing the site free of charge from August 2012 to about 2016. The association was the sponsoring body of the Wan Chai School, which ceased operations about five years ago. The Victoria Shanghai Academy moved to Aberdeen 18 months ago.

The announcement came after a coalition of about 180 parents, expanded from 60 in late March, lodged a request on Friday for an extraordinary general meeting to vote off the school board.

The Education Bureau said it was still waiting for the school's 'formal notification' turning down the Ma On Shan site.