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.
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.
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.
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?