International school announces Suntec campus closure, parents scramble to transfer children

A three-year temporary permission was granted to the school in 2021 to operate in then-underutilised spaces.

Seri Mazliana | April 04, 2024, 08:22 PM



One World International School (OWIS) Singapore's campus at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre will shut its doors in June 2024.

The announcement has caused strong reactions as some parents say they were only notified via email on Feb. 9, reported The Straits Times (ST).

Students enrolled in the current term will need to transfer to another school, and parents are struggling to scout for new schools.

The closure comes after the school's renewal application with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA) to continue using the Suntec space was not approved.

Impact on parents and students

The Suntec campus caters to students from ages three to 11 and has been operating since 2021.

One parent, who requested to remain anonymous, told Mothership that the closure is distressing for both students and parents.

The parent said this may have an emotional impact on students as they are "forced to leave their familiar environment and friends."

"This callous disregard for the well-being and future of these young students is unacceptable," the parent added.

School says closure was "communicated", parents say they weren't informed

Some parents told ST that they enrolled their children at the Suntec campus because of its location within the Central Business District (CBD).

While some parents lamented that they were not aware of the campus' impending closure, an OWIS spokesperson said parents have been informed that its use of the space in Suntec was a temporary arrangement that was subject to renewal, during its open houses.

According to screenshots of a WhatsApp group chat where parents discussed the closure of the Suntec branch, one parent claimed that they had started looking for another school, but were assured by a school representative that the new location for the Suntec campus would be located close by, in the CBD.

Another parent also claimed they were assured that students would not be asked to move to other branches.

The school currently has two other campuses, OWIS Nanyang (located in Jurong) and OWIS Punggol.

Why did the school have to close?

In response to Mothership's queries, an OWIS spokesperson said the school's use of the space in Suntec was a temporary arrangement with URA, and it was aware that any further extensions would be subject to URA approvals.

A spokesperson from URA said that the three-year temporary permission had been given to OWIS to use the under-utilised spaces in Suntec as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This includes multi-purpose halls, multi-purpose meeting rooms and meeting rooms on the third floor of the convention and exhibition centre from Jul. 1, 2021 to Jul. 1 2024.

According to the spokesperson, OWIS was aware of this arrangement and had signed an acknowledgement letter before the temporary permission was granted in 2021.

The school had asked about renewing the temporary permission on Aug. 29, 2023 as they wished to continue operating at the premises.

URA pointed out that the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre is zoned for Commercial use in the URA Master Plan 2019 and is approved as a venue for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE).

At the time, Covid-19 restrictions were already lifted and MICE activities in Singapore had resumed for more than a year.

The spokesperson said: "URA had assessed the renewal application with the relevant agencies carefully and informed OWIS on Oct. 5, 2023 that we were unable to support the school’s use of the premises beyond Jul. 1, 2024 so that the premises can revert to their approved use as a venue for MICE."

OWIS is considered a Foreign System School (FSS), and applications for the conversion of premises for FSS use will take into account various factors such as noise concerns and impact from additional traffic and parking requirements, the spokesperson added.

Support for those affected

Responding to Mothership's queries, an OWIS spokesperson said that the school remains dedicated to providing support and ensuring a smooth transition for all affected students of the Suntec campus.

"OWIS provided the support needed to transition to alternative campuses" such as OWIS Nanyang and OWIS Punggol, where they will continue to receive the same high-quality education and commitment to student well-being that OWIS Suntec has provided," the spokesperson said.

For those who choose to enrol into the other campuses, OWIS has implemented subsidies such as subsidised transport fees and sibling discount to facilitate convenience.

The spokesperson added: "OWIS is also exploring alternative replacement campuses and is in active discussions with relevant authorities. Once the final approvals are received, we will share such information with OWIS parents."

Top photos via One World International School Suntec Campus/Google Maps