You will have heard all sorts of rumours about the future of the buildings of Island School, and some of you will have come to information sessions we have hosted. Until now the situation has been vague due to uncertainty over a number of issues related to this project. However we have good reason to believe that we are getting closer to achieving clarity over these issues and are able to look forward to a more concrete plan for action.
As you will know, the need for a new Island School building arises from two factors:
- The paucity of the current school facilities for the kind of education we want to offer our students, both academically and for extracurricular activities.
- The poor physical condition of the current buildings which, surveys indicate, do not have much more life left in them.
The first area of uncertainty has been funding. Building a new Island School is going to be a massive investment for the English Schools Foundation (ESF). It will be, by far, the largest project that the Foundation has ever taken on, with respect to the likely costs.
HK$5m has already been spent in the Technical Viability Study (TVS) that was concluded at the end of 2012. The ESF Board has now approved – in principle – that HK$90m be allocated for the design stage of the new school. This will cover design fees, ground investigations and other activities needed to prepare for construction of a new school. This step means that the ESF Board can see the way forward to the full funding of a project which – at 2012 prices – is estimated to cost HK$1.3bn. As part of this funding we expect that a contribution from the Government will also be agreed in principle when the subvention issue is cleared up.
The second area of uncertainty has been the location of any new building. You may have read in the newspapers of our attempts to secure a possible site to build a new school on Hong Kong Island. In the end this has proven futile for a variety of reasons, including strong
opposition from local residents for the Quarry Bay site, which has deterred Government
support for this initiative. The Government has discussed a possible site with us, but this was in the New Territories and a long way away from where the majority of our families live. In the end we had to reject this proposal due to the impracticality for our students and families.
The conclusion that we have come to is that we must build a new school on our current site.This leads to the third area of uncertainty, which is how we maintain a high quality of education during the period while the current site is unusable. ESF now has significant experience with a successful temporary site for Kowloon Junior School while a new school was being built.
Significant funding was put into the ‘decant’ site with the result that students, staff and parents were all satisfied that educational standards were maintained. We are currently working with the Government and looking closely at options for such sites for Island School. Island School
We are in a position to discuss possibilities, but we are too far away from the time when we could start building to have certainty over this. However we are extremely confident that we can ensure that Island School education maintains its outstanding quality during the decanting period.
The final area of uncertainty has been the time frame. It has been frustrating to have been
engaged in discussion over redevelopment for over 10 years now, with no clear understanding of when things might happen. With the above decisions on finance and site in place we can look forward to a sequence of events that looks something like this:
- 2013 Tender process for Architects, Engineers and Surveyors
- 2014 Design of a new state of the art school is begun.
- 2015 Design substantially completed and building approval process begun.
- 2016 Construction begins.
- 2019 The opening of a new school at Borrett Road
Obviously these dates are still approximate and could move one way or the other.
We know that this process is going to cause inconvenience and that there will be problems that we will need to solve along the way. However, Island School and the ESF are absolutely committed to solving these problems, to ensuring the maintenance of outstanding education during the redevelopment process, and to designing and building a school that will set the standard for Hong Kong and the region. The building of a new Island School is both necessary and exciting, and we look forward to engaging in this project as a community.
On June 18th 2013, at 7 pm, we will hold an information evening and discussion about all of the issues mentioned above. This is open to all current and future Island School parents, and we look forward to seeing you there. We need your support, help and suggestions on how to make this process a success.