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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Parents at ACS Doha express anxiety over possibility of school closure

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For illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Update on July 3, 2015: ACS Doha and its landlord have since signed a new lease for the school that runs until June 2019.

A leading international school in Doha may be forced to close its doors at the end of this academic year if it does not successfully renew the lease on its building, parents said they were implicitly told last night.

Earlier this week, ACS Doha International School called a meeting for the parents and guardians of the community’s nearly 1,000 pupils, but did not specify the reason why.

When they arrived at the school in Al Gharafa last night, parents were told that the lease on ACS was due to expire in June, and that the school was in negotiations with its landlord Ezdan Holding Group to renew it for another five years.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Addressing the parents, ACS Chairman David Thomas said the school was committed to remaining in Doha and that the school management was hopeful for a positive outcome.

But some parents have express frustration at the way the school handled the meeting, saying more questions were raised than answered.

Speaking to Doha News, one parent said that Thomas and his colleagues failed to properly answer questions about the future of the school and its contingency plans if it did not secure the lease renewal, sparking anger and anxiety among many of those attending.

The parent, who has two children at the school but asked not to be named, said:

“In the end, parents were yelling and getting up and walking out. The meeting was a debacle, and handled very, very badly, and it has raised more questions which we are unable to get answers to.

They must have known that we want to know what was happening. Parents were so upset, so irate. We are dealing with people’s children, with their education. You don’t treat people like that. They’re happy to take our money but they won’t give us any respect.”

Another parent, with a son in Grade 2 and a daughter due to start at the school in September, said: “Nothing’s concrete. None of us have any answers.”

She added that she is considering trying to find another school for her daughter, but expressed concern about successfully securing a new place for her son, given Qatar’s school crunch.

ACS officials declined to comment on the situation to Doha News.

Letter to parents

A meeting was also held with teachers yesterday to advise them of the situation, and with pupils earlier this morning.

Additionally, in a letter sent by email to parents last night, Thomas and Head of School Steve Calland-Scoble said:

“ACS is issuing this precautionary, advisory notice that the school has been and is still in negotiations with its landlord regarding renewing the current lease, which finishes towards the end of this academic year. We have not been able to agree a renewed lease term with the landlord.”

It added that the school is working closely with the Supreme Education Council (SEC) and Minister of Education, and is considering contingency plans including building a new school or finding other premises.

However the letter also admitted that both options would take time to put into place.

Describing ongoing negotiations with the landlord as likely to be “protracted,” the letter said that parents would be updated regularly after next week’s mid-term break.

The future

Forced to consider the possibility that the school can’t renew its lease, and cannot find alternative accommodation in time of the start of the new academic year at the beginning of September, some parents have said they would ordinarily consider looking for another school for their children.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But because ACS Doha offers an international baccalaureate program, influenced by the American education system, it will be difficult for parents to find and move to another school in Qatar with a similar program.

The school has more than 940 pupils, a long waiting list and was due to open a Year 12 in September, which would bring the age range of its pupils from three to 18 years old. It also has 150 staff from 60 different countries, according to its website.

Do you have a child at ACS? Thoughts?

56 COMMENTS

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A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago

I want more details. What’s the issue between ezdan and the school?

If anything ezdan seem to be one of the lower quality real estate provider but have a reputation of often being fair and reasonable. Maybe that’s not the case here… Perhaps ezdan wants to open its own school and want to kick ACS out

Anyone knows more ?

Peter
Peter
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

The sponsor of the school is also the owner of Ezdan…strange…

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Peter

Ezdan is a government entity.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

No it’s not… If anything it’s completely opposite of that.. It’s a 100% public company traded on Doha stock exchange

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

It was trading at 55 riyals a share until recently. Now the price has fallen to 15 per share. Perhaps the falling share price is encouraging Ezdan to raise rents and increase revenue?

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Not really … Unfortunately ezdan stock price and stock price of many of the smaller companies have nothing to do with the company performance or balance sheet .. Doha stocks can easily be influenced by a hand full of ppl with very deep pockets

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Anything in the Doha Stock Exchange has some government involvement to some extent. Vodafone and QNB as an example. Ezdan is similar.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

“””Anything”” in the Doha Stock Exchange has some government involvement to some extent” False.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Red buzzer.. Nope ur very wrong again… Vodafone has zero govt.. Owned mostly by QF and Vodaphone holdings… Military pension and state pension..

Most banks which got bailed out in 2008/2009 have state ownership through Qatar Holding

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

QF is a government funded entity, so are military and state or pensions. There may be many layers of ownership but Vodafone comes back to being majority government owned.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Yes and no… Govt funds QF and sets its budget but it has an independent board of director who manage the QF fund… And pension funds may be givt entities true but their also very independent.. When I meant govt I meant govt funds or investment companies like Qatar holdings or Qatar investment authority …

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

And who owns QF and the Military and State Pensions? The government has shares in pretty much every big company, be it in the oil, gas, telecom or real estate sector. Government shares are not labelled “government-owned”, but do belong to entities in which the government is the majority shareholder, or at least has a substantial percentage of shares, which means the government has some sort of control over key decisions in those companies.

Eventually, it is an opaque network but you can see from the list of shareholders with more than 5% ownership (revealed by QE) that the government is directly and indirectly involved in all the strategic companies.

Now going back to Ezdan, it might be different though I doubt it. Ezdan is too big to leave it all to the private.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Ezdan was owned by one person who also owns Al Ahli hospital he then created a company to manage his wealth which later became two companies in the stock market.. Just like Aamal who own and operate the city centre mall and hotels and Al Mannai corp… They’re family business turned into publicly owned conglomerates .. Govt does own anything in these companies

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Majority owned by ?

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

According to Doha stock exchange who discloses the name any party who owns more than 5% in any traded company … 55% to a private company called AL TADAWAL HOLDINGS.. Which I assume is a holding company of the ezdan chairman or founders … 23% is owned or was gifted to charity … 17% is by a company called IMTALAK… And the rest by other shareholders who none own greater than 5%

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Ezdan is traded on the Doha Securities Market.

CeePeeEm
CeePeeEm
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Earlier also some readers referred to Ezdan as a government entity, whereas it is NOT. It is the largest private sector real estate company in Qatar, and used to be previously known as Thani Bin Abdulla Housing Group.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  CeePeeEm

Anything in the Doha Stock Exchange has some government involvement to some extent. Vodafone and QNB as an example. Ezdan, Milaha, QP, QIB, are all in the same situation.

terracotta
terracotta
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Ezdan is not.

Kiki.
Kiki.
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Ezdan isn’t owned by the government.

Arnisador
Arnisador
6 years ago

All the best. Inshallah the problem will be resolve by the ACS admin and the Landlord.

Brian
Brian
6 years ago

A bit of an unfair description of the meeting.

People left the meeting (It lasted almost 2 hours, but all useful information was given in the first 20 minutes. I was near the front, and saw no parents “Walk Out” (Implying protest) The ACS team too questions for well over 90 minutes, addressing the issues as best they could while maintaining an appropriate level of confidentiality.

Yes–parents were frustrated. We don’t want this to be happening, and we want to know how we can help. Finding new quality-school places will be an impossibility for such a large student population, and most ACS parents are not willing to consider second-tier schools for their children.

I hope that the issue can be resolved with the Landlord, or that alternatives can be found–Custom building is NOT an option, and the school leadership clearly know that–that is a plan for 5 years out, for now there is the Garaffa campus or other buildings being proposed by the SEC.

Althani
Althani
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thanks for the clarification

Eduardo Kawak
Eduardo Kawak
6 years ago

Let’s see if you’ve heard this one before: Delay delay delay, until the client is in a desperate situation, then hold them over a barrel in order to extract the maximum amount of cash.

It would be shameful if Ezdan Holdings’ shareholders are accepting of such protracted negotiation tactics. This current situation is horrible for parents, creating unnecessary panic and uncertainty, and in the process messing with almost 1,000 children’s lives and their right to education.

And of course, Ezdan aren’t going to care if any increased rent charges they apply in a new lease agreement is passed onto parents. This seems to be the direction where this is heading.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Eduardo Kawak

But is that the issue? It seems the school hasn’t been clear on what the real issue is …

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I would have thought the school had been very clear. They haven’t been able to renegotiate a lease. With fees fixed and rents not they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s not like they’re going to teach kids for free – or worse lose money. This should not have been able to go on for so long. If the SEC can fix fees why can’t they fix leases?

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

They do fees charged are based on rent paid.. Higher the rent the higher the fees… So the school would be allowed to pass through the fees… This is why I say there’s more to the story we don’t know

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

But it’s a chicken and egg. You’d be mad to commit to higher lease before you knew you could guarantee higher fees.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

Not sure how it works to be honest…

Eduardo Kawak
Eduardo Kawak
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

I imagine the school has not been clear with details because their hands may be tied due to their local sponsor also being their landlord. And the local sponsor not being able to negotiate a lease agreement with itself??? There is obviously subtext involved.

It would be interesting to find out who owns the massive palace complex next door. They might not be at all happy with the school traffic on their street, which has increased dramatically in the last year. If it’s the same as the sponsor and the landlord, well what chance would the school have in that location?

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Eduardo Kawak

No you’re wrong.. Unless the palace owner wants to buy the land.. In which case they’ll knock he building down..

And I’m sure the school traffic isn’t as bad as the continuous and weekend traffic caused by lulu hypermarket, ezdan mall and the new khaleej mall all on the same strip

Eduardo Kawak
Eduardo Kawak
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Wrong about which part? Without concrete information we have nothing but speculation to go on.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Eduardo Kawak

Your speculation about the neighbors

Jock
Jock
6 years ago
Reply to  A_qtr

Eduardo is correct…all owned by one person.

Confused guest
Confused guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Eduardo Kawak

I think the owner/landlord of the school, the palace, the falcon yard, the mosque and everything back to the mall are all the same person…

Jock
Jock
6 years ago
Reply to  Eduardo Kawak

the next door Palace is owned by the school sponsor who is also the landlord.

ACS Parent
ACS Parent
6 years ago

At the end, the final outcome will be a new school lease with higher fees. The effect on parents will be seen in the “revised” school tuition fees in September. It is hard to sell the new tuition fees if no panic is created ahead of time given that the tuition was increased 3-4 months ago. ACS said they do not need help in negotiating the deal and was almost at the final stages of closing the deal; so why creating the panic at this stage and not updating the parents a week later-in February- with confirmed news? The school will not vanish all the sudden!!

Ian
Ian
6 years ago

ACS Doha provides quality education to its students. My kids attend the school and I was at the meeting. There is anger that something that took so long to build would be so easily dismantled; unfortunately the management of ACS Doha took the brunt of that frustration. Often the first stage of grief is anger. Perhaps our best hope is that SEC intervenes and provides the necessary facilities for the school. Thanks its management and teachers, the school has succeeded in creating a nurturing, multicultural environment for learning. If ACS Doha is lost in this manner, I think other educational institutions would be very reluctant to set up camp in Qatar which would be very regrettable to say the least.

A_DOH
A_DOH
6 years ago

I am going to look at the new GEMS American school in Al Wakra, they are accepting new pupils apparently

school-finder
school-finder
6 years ago
Reply to  A_DOH

How long does a commute from ACS to Wakra take during morning school time? How long does a commute from Wakra to ACS take when school is out (for preschool/kindergarten kids). Please let me know cos I’m looking for a school.

unknown
unknown
6 years ago
Reply to  school-finder

I guess GEMS also sponsored by EZDAN? It’s located just behind ZEDAN village.

Bursin
Bursin
6 years ago
Reply to  A_DOH

Sending ur kids to an un established school like GEMS is as much of a lottery as holding out for a new lease.

Confused Guest
Confused Guest
6 years ago

I’m also an ACS parent. A major concern that I have noticed is that there seems to already have been delays to this information getting
out. According to the Chairman’s own admission at the meeting,
negotiations had been going on “for several months” before they
decided to inform parents & staff. Likewise, ACS staff were only notified a few
hours prior to the parents. So yes there are almost 1,000 students not
sure about their educational future, but also over 100 teachers who just
missed the job fairs. We’ve been told to stay put and trust in the
negotiations, but it seems a bit sketchy that they would wait until
after the job fairs and right up to the application deadlines of some schools
before announcing this (SEK’s Primary Years application deadline is
Saturday, for example).

We as parents want to be supportive but we have
to feel we have the choice to be supportive, and at this stage we all
feel like we’re dealing with damage control. The scenario Eduardo alluded to in an earlier post may very well be the case, but it is an unnerving situation for many. I am hoping for the best, and wish the Admin the best of luck in dealing with the situation. Despite all the circumstances I do feel they are trying the best they can in this situation, and perhaps we should dial down demands for details. Many of us who have been in this country for more than a short while know that details are not always given even when they should be, and we want to make sure we don’t spoil the deal.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

Way would Ezdan refuse to renew the lease? They can negotiate a reasonable rise in the rental fees and that’s it. I am suspecting the management of the school is trying to make a big fuss in order to put some pressure on Ezdan to accept their terms.

sadam
sadam
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

$$$$$$$

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Or the reverse – i.e. Ezdan are holding out as long as possible to ensure the highest return. This is absolutely ridiculous. A lease like this should have been finalized before LAST summer. A system that allows something like this to be delayed this long is like playing the lottery with your kids future.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

And that is the name of the game. Although lotteries are ‘haram’ they are played with passion here.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago

This place is getting completely nuts. The qualified and experienced ex-pats – and it is the ones with professional experience that have kids – will be running for the door. There is only so much money people will take to live in a place where everything is completely disfunctional

Saleem
Saleem
6 years ago
Reply to  AEC

I totally agree and support their choice to if they do. No salary is worth comprising your kids education.

Eleonor
Eleonor
6 years ago

My daughter is in ACS and I was to the meeting. I confirm the frustration and anger of the parents, and the fact that the school management was too vague in answering, coming to the meeting with no clear explanations about the alternatives, especially in the “worst case scenario”. Many parents asked for more precise and detailed answers. I am also concerned for the future of the personnel and their jobs, and and I also fear that in this uncertain situation the best teachers will try to leave the school.



Question: is it true that we, almost 1,000 families, can do nothing to help? Sure that we cannot talk to our embassies, to our employers, to the government itself, and let them understand this: 



Qatar needs the expat expertise, but high qualified professionals can’t stay in this country if minimum conditions are not respected. A good and secured education for kids is one of the most important. If we cannot assure a good school to our daughter we will leave Qatar. 



The government (SEC? Ministry of Education?) cannot just watch this negotiation from apart, but must intervene,
for many reasons:



In their interest:
- because closing ACS is a huge damage for the image and reliability of Qatar as a modern and developed country.
- because it is a damage for Qatari economy if expats will go away or not come.



For defending the primary right of children to a good education:

-because if Qatar wants to be acknowledged as a modern country, it must seek for the achievement of basic welfare and human rights (also in other – more urgent fields like worker’s rights) – the right to a good education is one of them.



So this issue is not only a private issue between two commercial entities – Ezdan and ACS – but it involves all the community welfare and it is a social – even political – issue. ACS management cannot be left alone in this negotiation. We parents must stay close to them, but, if the negotiations are not positive and SEC cannot help, take all the (legal, non violent) actions to raise our voice and prevent that the school is kicked out of the present
location with such a short notice.

Marcos
Marcos
6 years ago
Reply to  Eleonor

How the School got a IB accreditation ?
I’m very concern about this problem, students on IB level, should have a secure and calm environment to complete the IB standards.
And after this meeting, a lack of thrust between families and school has been installed in all Parents.
Find a school in Doha was the hardest thing to me when decide to come to Qatar.

I hope this is taken to the highest level of the Supreme Education Council, and the IBO.org is also informed.

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

At a time when there is a critical shortage of school places, this is incredible. 1000 families means 1000 expat professionals contributing to wealth and creation of a modern State. Qatar is already in dire competition with UAE for expat expertise and Dubai is building and opening new schools at breakneck speed. Time for the Government / SEC to step 8n and resolve this I think before the parents vote with their feet

Chipper fluffypants
Chipper fluffypants
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

From my understanding, there are also a large amount of Qatari students at ACS.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Qatar – all that money – but no functioning education system? Why? Look at PISA rates – one of the lowest in the OECD? Why? Look at the state of all the International schools and lack of placements? Why? Surely just surely a light bulb needs to go off in a powerful Qataris head about this?

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed
Reply to  Observant One

Qatar is not an OECD member….

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

Perhaps its just a case of greed and also about the landlord trying to get the maximum plus more if possible from the tenant who with all his investments and infrastructure at this location is now like a hostage to the landlord

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