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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Antipolo school closes 2 days before classes open

Another private school, Georgia International Academy in Antipolo City, Rizal on Friday announced its closure through a Zoom meeting with parents, a few days before the school year 2022-23 opens on Monday.

Officials of the school, which has branches in Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo cities, promised to refund the tuition paid by parents, GMA News reported on Twitter. The reasons for the school’s closure were still unclear as of press time.

This comes on the heels of the closure of Colegio de San Lorenzo in Quezon City, which announced Monday it was closing shop, to the chagrin of its students, their parents, and the faculty.

On Friday, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte called the attention of Colegio de San Lorenzo school management to stop requiring parents to sign a waiver before getting a refund of their student’s tuition and other payments.

Informed of Georgia’s Academy’s closure in a Viber group chat with education reporters, Department of Education spokesman Michael Poa said he was checking with the DepEd regional director for Calabarzon, to which Rizal province belongs, and the Schools Division Office of Antipolo to confirm the move.

The GMA reporter who asked Poa in the chat, Mariz Umali, told the DepEd official that parents of Georgia students “were under so much stress given such short notice to look for other schools.”

The Education Department has already launched a probe after a series of schools shut down across the country, citing financial constraints stemming from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 860 out of 14,000 private schools in the Catholic-majority country have closed their doors since the pandemic hit two years ago, according to the Department of Education as cited in a report on the Union of Catholic Asian News website.

The closures have affected 58,327 students and 4,488 teachers, while the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines reported that nearly 85 percent, or more than 700 of the schools that folded, were Catholic ones, the report added.

Georgia Academy’s official website and Facebook account were both inaccessible on Friday, but other websites revealed it shifted to fully online learning for the school year 2020-2021 to ensure the health and safety of its 1,400 students.

“Our E-learning program has proven to be successful serving almost 1,400 students on its first run for Pre-K to Grade 12. We have over 60 digitally trained teachers with 7,200 cumulative teaching hours,” the school added in an online brochure.

Georgia Academy said it is an institution focusing on three pillars of learning—academics, arts, and athletics. It is a K -12 school offering a full-level curriculum—Early Education, Grade School, and High School, and claims a “progressive” education system.

Incorporated in 2007, Georgia Academy expanded to three campuses in Iloilo (2008), Antipolo (2009), and Cagayan de Oro (2014). In 2018, Little Georgia Academy was established for young learners ages 1 to 4. It also grew to four branches– in Sta. Rosa in Laguna, Makati, Taguig and Ortigas.

The Quezon City government, through city legal officer Orlando Paolo Casimiro, said it received information that parents at CDSL were obliged to sign a waiver before they could get a refund.

“It is not the obligation of the parents to sign a waiver. The school cannot use the waiver as a requirement before they can get a refund,” Belmonte said.

“The school cannot limit the legal options of the parents of students affected by its sudden closure by requiring them to sign a waiver,” Casimiro added.

He urged the school to fulfill its previous commitment to immediately refund the payment to the parents and students after announcing its
permanent closure last Aug. 15 due to lack of financial viability.

A receipt is already enough as proof of refund, he said.

Upon the instruction of Belmonte to assist students, parents, and personnel affected by CDSL’s closure, he said the City Legal Department and Education Affairs Unit have been monitoring compliance with the refund of school fees.

He said as of the last count, 343 basic education students and 443 college students are ready to claim or have already claimed their refund.

The school’s business permit is also deemed revoked, Casimiro said.

The QC Education Affairs Unit is also coordinating with nearby schools for the transfer of displaced students.

Teachers and non-teaching personnel who lost their jobs have been referred to the city’s Public Employment Service Office and other concerned agencies for job placement or livelihood opportunities.

Casimiro said the city government is looking into other possible violations of CDSL, including lack of building permit, alleged illegal construction, and violation of easement of waterways.

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