Update on July 3, 2015: ACS Doha and its landlord have since signed a new lease for the school that runs until June 2019.
The ACS Doha International School community has been cautiously celebrating this week after the school announced that it would remain open for at least another academic year.
Yesterday, officials told parents and students that the school’s landlord had offered an extension on ACS’s building in Al Gharafa, which caters to nearly 1,000 students and 150 staff of 60 nationalities.
In a letter sent to parents and guardians, the Head of School Steve Calland-Scoble and Chairman David Thomas said the school would now be open until at least June 2016:
“We are very pleased to confirm that our landlord has offered an extension to the current lease of our premises at Gharrafa. Initial terms have been presented to ACS for the extended lease, which we are currently finalizing with our landlord.
We continue to plan for the next academic year as normal.”
The school is still in final negotiations over the extension of the lease, and is believed to be considering a “multiple-year offer” from Ezdan Holding Group.
Last month, ACS warned parents, teachers and pupils that it was in “protracted” negotiations with Ezdan over the renewal of its lease, and many feared that the school could close after June, leaving hundreds of children without a school place.
Qatari mother-of-three Hasna Nada was one of the parents who set up the petition. She previously told Doha News that the aim was to turn some of the initial anger of parents into positive action, in a bid to secure the future of the school.
Speaking today about the latest news, Nada said, “We are all very, very relieved. It is amazing news.” She continued:
“This result shows the power of the community. Everyone has come together to support the school and we are all celebrating. We are very grateful to parents, to the SEC and to Ezdan for their decision. They heard our voices.”
Aliya Qutub, an American expat who has three children at the school and who was a co-founder of the petition, added: “It is impressive how, in this society, grassroots movements can have influence in decisions like this. It shows that, in this educational landscape, it is critical to have this kind of support from the community.”
Another parent, who has two children attending ACS, told Doha News that she was relieved, but wondered if this might be a “stay of execution.”
“We have spent the last two months very anxious, wondering what we will do. Some parents have already secured places in other schools. Others have made up their minds to go back home.
We are still considering whether to leave or stay. We didn’t want to leave, but felt we had no choice, without school places for our children.”
She added that the experience could be “very damaging for Qatar.”
“No one will come to work here if they can’t get their children into schools,” she said.
ACS has plans for a new, purpose-built campus on another site, which will cater to more than 2,000 students. However, construction has not yet started and there is no firm timeline, so it would be several years before the building became operational.
Meanwhile, the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents the private business sector, has intervened to save other schools whose landlords have been trying to impose massive rent increases, the Peninsula reports.
The chamber’s legal committee is collecting complaints from schools that say their landlords are attempting to increase rents on their buildings by more than the 5 percent permitted by law.
The committee is then appealing to the Central Rent Dispute Settlement Committee of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP/Baladiya) to examine the disputes.
As Qatar’s population continues to grow, demand for school places has outpaced supply, particularly for private institutions, where many expats choose enroll their children.
However, the most sought-after international schools have waiting lists of up to several years.
The public works authority Ashghal announced earlier this week that 33 new schools and kindergartens were under construction and would be ready to open in September this year, while another 17 would be ready for September 2016.
It is not known how many of these schools will be independent schools or privately run.