Parents fret over location of interim site for new JC

Parents are divided over the Ministry of Education's (MOE) offer to re-look its decision on where to house the interim site for a new junior college (JC) that cannot be built on schedule.

The two camps appear to be separated by the desire for a convenient location on the one hand, and for a suitable site, wherever it is, on the other hand.

On Tuesday, in response to demands from some parents, MOE agreed to reconsider sites nearer to Bishan, including the old Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Ang Mo Kio, which it had previously rejected as being too small.

The request came from parents who felt that the ministry's choice of the old Raffles Junior College in Mount Sinai was too far for their children to travel to.

A third camp appears to be parents who want to transfer their children out altogether if the new junior college cannot be built in time as promised.

The new JC will start in 2017 and enrol mainly Integrated Programme students from Catholic High School (CHS) in Bishan, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School in Ang Mo Kio and the Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) in Bukit Timah.

The plan is for them to study at an interim site until the campus at the junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Marymount Road is ready at end-2019.

The original time frame for it to be ready by mid-2018 had to be scuttled because of complications in building and design due to the Cross Island Line, which will run underneath the college.

Another complication was that the original choice of an interim school site in Bishan became unavailable and a new site had to be picked.

Some parents suggested the old ITE campus in Ang Mo Kio as an alternative to MOE's plan to use the former RJC in Mount Sinai. They said it could take up to 40 minutes for their children to get to Mount Sinai.

But MOE explained in a May 12 letter that ITE Ang Mo Kio lacked facilities such as lecture theatres, science labs and a running track, and its canteen and hall were too small.

After a heated dialogue on Monday between MOE and upset parents, the ministry said it would relook interim sites nearer to Bishan, including ITE Ang Mo Kio. This has worried other parents, who noted MOE had already rejected the location as inadequate.

An SCGS student's father, who wanted to be known only as Mr Leong, said: "The site must be suitable for a JC so that our children's education is not compromised."

A 45-year-old Bishan resident with two sons at CHS agreed, saying: "The Mount Sinai site may be far, but it is not that big a deal. When the kids get older, their workplace won't be next door too."

But housewife Carol Goh, 45, whose son attends CHS, is holding out hope the school will be completed on schedule. "Mount Sinai may be convenient for MOE, but it is not convenient for many of us."

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, urged parents to make the best of a tough situation, as a campus is but one aspect of school life. "Maybe something went wrong, but now the question is, what is the best solution?"

This article was first published on May 30, 2015.
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