The cash-strapped Colegio de San Lorenzo (CDSL) in Quezon is set to file for bankruptcy after attempts to find new investors failed, prompting its owners to close the school amid enrolment for the coming school year.
Meanwhile, the CDSL asked parents and students to come to the Accounting Office to get their refunds.
“We hope to complete this process by Friday, but our offices will be open until September 20, 2022 for those who would want to collect their refunds later. We are establishing an open line of communication to reach out to everyone who has been affected,” the school said in a statement.
CDSL lawyer Vixen Dorado said in a virtual press briefing that his clients would cooperate with the Quezon City legal department which had said it would initiate legal action against the beleaguered school to protect the interest of the students and the stakeholders.
In another development, Quezon City Rep. Juan Carlos Atayde urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to ensure the smooth transfer of the CDSL students to other schools.
The Department of Education (DepEd) said it was not notified of the closure of the 35-year old private Catholic school.
“I believe that the very purpose of the probe is to make sure that the students’ well-being will be prioritized,” Dorado said.
The city’s local government said following the closure that even as the school continued to accept enrollees, its property had already been put up for sale.
“We respect the authority of the Quezon CIty government and we will comply with whatever order that they would want us to do,” Dorado said.
The institution also defended the sudden closure, saying it held out until the last minute amid its “desire and hope” to keep the school open and that an investment was initially expected to sustain its operations.
“We did not think it would happen. At the last minute, we were hoping that the investment would materialize. We were closely communicating with a possible investor [and] we were expecting a certain number of [enrollees], and that was not reached,” Dorado said.
In an earlier statement, the school management cited financial instability brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and low enrollment turnout as reasons behind the closure.
Dorado added that the family’s private funds had been used to compensate for the required financial resources for the school’s continuity as it hoped for new investments which did not materialize.
“Closing was our last resort, however, we were pushed against the wall, and given that the investment did not materialize, we had no other option but to close and move forward with assisting the needs of every stakeholder,” he said.
The waiver—which stated that students and parents would not file a class suit once they receive the refund—was made to ensure that the investment in the property would remain attractive should the investment proceed, Dorado added.
According to Dorado, 100 percent of the expected tuition fee refund has been processed for the school’s basic education students while more than half are yet to be reimbursed for those in college.
Dorado did not give an estimate regarding the number of students who are yet to transfer to other institutions as a result of the closure but said it would increase in the coming days.
The school said its offices will remain open until Sept. 20 to assist students and their families with concerns regarding the refund and the processing of requirements. The refund is expected to be completed by Friday.
“We recognize the toll of the said closure and we will not abscond because we recognize that we have a responsibility towards those affected,” Dorado said.
“We reiterate our sincere hope that nothing like this will happen to other schools, especially those that are family-owned,” he added.
The sudden and unexpected closure triggered confusion and outrage from students, parents, faculty, and its workers alike.
But according to Dorado, the closure was not an easy decision, and they fought hard to the end to keep it open.
“We were hopeful that we could stop the closure from happening. Despite the COVID-19 lockdowns, we lowered student fees and subsidized school operations using our family’s personal funds. We tried to find an investor to acquire the school and operationalize it even if we can no longer be part of it.”
“Unfortunately, by the start of this semester, enrollment had not recovered, an investor did not materialize, and we realized that the school could no longer be rescued.”
The school management stated it is working with the DepEd and the CHED to help the students transition to other schools. “Without cost, we are releasing the transcripts of records for all students to their owners, helping them obtain their academic credentials.”
The school is also working with other schools and universities who are willing to absorb our population. It added these schools have set up booths at the CDSL gym where students can process their transfers seamlessly.
“We are also refunding all tuition fees. As of today, all the checks have been prepared to be claimed. We have already refunded 100 percent of tuition fees for K-12, Basic Education, and more than half of the tuition fees of the college students have been processed,” the CDSL stated.
The management is hoping that what happened to Colegio de San Lorenzo will not happen to other schools, especially those that are family-owned.
“We observe gratefully Vice-President and Dep-Ed Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio’s efforts to reform the educational system. Of the Philippine 400 schools that closed during the pandemic, we hope we will be the last.”
“With the doors of Colegio de San Lorenzo now closed, it is now up to QC officials and agencies like the Commission on Higher Education to open windows of opportunities for students who want to continue their education,” Atayde said.
He also said he had talked to CHED chair Prospero de Vera to request the commission’s assistance in identifying and coordinating with schools that could accommodate former Colegio de San Lorenzo students.
Colegio de San Lorenzo, located in the district represented by Atayde, on August 15 announced its sudden closure in a general assembly for students and parents—parents that had already paid for their children’s tuition.
According to the legislator, “our priority, of course, is to ensure that the school’s former students will be able to transfer to other schools, and CHED Chair de Vera assured us that they would extend assistance in this matter.”
“I think the students need the much needed assistance to facilitate their transfer; there may be delays in the processing of the students’ transfer requirements given how many of them need these documents,” Atayde said.
He said, “intervention may be needed so that these students will not be required to pay the tuition of their new schools until they can secure refunds from Colegio de San Lorenzo.”
He also stressed that students vying for academic awards should not be prejudiced by the school’s sudden closure, to be fair to students who worked hard for years in order to qualify for academic distinctions like Latin honors.
“We will make every effort to request the schools accepting these students to hopefully consider crediting them for the grades they earned while in Colegio de San Lorenzo; hindi naman kasalanan ng bata na nagsara ang eskwelahan,” said Atayde.
As more details about the sudden closure come to light, Atayde said that the sanctions on the school should be explored to hold it accountable for the “traumatizing inconvenience” its closure caused.
The solon lamented that the Colegio de San Lorenzo episode was “not just an inconvenience––it is a traumatizing experience. Isipin nyo, one day you’re ready to start school, the next day you learn that you will have to look for another school and enroll in another course. Transferring schools is usually a months-long process, but in this case they had to do it in days.”
“I recognize that times have been tough on many businesses because of the pandemic, but contingency plans should have been put in place by Colegio de San Lorenzo management to ensure that its students would not suffer from the school’s financial difficulties.”