Concerns over the fate of a suspended international school intensified after it announced that it could not resume secondary classes on Wednesday as promised while teachers revealed that as many as 170 primary pupils were affected by the halt.
Fifteen overseas teachers at the school had expressed worries to the South China Morning Post that they could become illegal workers, given their working visas were based on an “illegal contract”.
Tsung Tsin Think Academy, with a roll of 250 Primary Four to Secondary Six students in Cheung Sha Wan, came under the spotlight after Education Bureau officers carried out an on-site inspection last Friday and questioned teachers over their employment contracts.
As the bureau later said the academy was operating illegally, principal Lily Choy Lai-yu announced over the weekend that all classes would be suspended on Monday and Tuesday.
But in an email to parents on Tuesday afternoon, Choy said classes for secondary school pupils could not resume on Wednesday. She said the school was still finalising plans for the children’s education and also needed time to figure out an arrangement that complied with bureau and Immigration Department regulations.
At the same time, about 15 primary and secondary teachers from overseas told the SCMP they didn't want to return to work unless the government could ensure they would not face legal action or be blacklisted if they went back.
“Some of our contracts have Boundary Street, another campus, as our working address so there’s a discrepancy between our contracts and the school’s actual registered name,” they wrote in an email, adding that their “contracts are illegal, so are our visas, it is a total mess”.
But a government source said the teachers would not breach their conditions of stay as long as they made a change to their working addresses as soon as possible.
The teachers also revealed that 170 primary pupils from seven classes were affected, instead of 30 to 40 students as reported earlier. They added that Choy had planned to move primary pupils to two campuses on Boundary Street in Prince Edward and Lincoln Road in Kowloon Tong.
“Classrooms in Boundary Street are small, to move seven classes back with at least 20 students per class is ridiculous,” they wrote. “The campus on Lincoln Road is a kindergarten and it’s really small.”
A parent surnamed Lam, whose nine-year-old daughter is a Primary Five pupil, said she received a message from Choy on Tuesday afternoon saying furniture was moved from the Cheung Sha Wan school and teachers would spend Wednesday setting up classrooms at the Boundary Street campus for Primary Four to Six students to resume classes.
But it was still up in the air as to how it would work out.
The mother said she and some other parents would meet lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen on Tuesday night.
According to Choy, the academy rented the site from Tsung Tsin Middle School in September 2015 under an agreement with the private school. But failure to officially register the name of Tsung Tsin Think Academy – the name it operates under – led the bureau on Friday to order the school to vacate the premises.
As a result, the campus in Cheung Sha Wan became one of the four education facilities of the Think International Schools Group.
On Tuesday, the head of Tsung Tsin Middle School, Tung Fuk, confirmed with the SCMP that it had reached an agreement after a meeting with Choy on Monday. Secondary pupils would be allowed to continue classes at the campus but only under Tsung Tsin’s name.