Colegio de San Lorenzo defends sudden closure: 'We did not think it would happen'

Colegio de San Lorenzo defends sudden closure: 'We did not think it would happen'
This picture shows the facade of Colegio de San Lorenzo in Quezon City
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MANILA, Philippines — Colegio de San Lorenzo, which announced its sudden closure at the beginning of the semester, defended itself Wednesday, saying it was holding out until the last minute in an attempt to keep the school open. 

At a press briefing with reporters Wednesday morning, lawyer Vix Dorado, who represents the school's upper management, said that the school only closed at the last minute because it was in the "negotiation stage with an investor" which ultimately did not materialize.

To recall, the Department of Education earlier said that it was not informed of the closure before the school made the announcement. In that time period, the family and ownership group had began digging into their personal funds to keep the school afloat while holding out hope for an investment.

“It was announced prior to the beginning of the semester...We did not think that it would happen. We could not have communicated something that we were uncertain about. We respect the authority of the local government and we will comply with any order they want us to do,” Dorado said in the school's defense. 

"We were closely communicating with a possible investor and we were expecting a certain number of enrollment, and that was not reached. At the last minute, we were hoping that the investment would materialize, and that did not happen."

The school management in an earlier statement said that the move was “due to the financial instability and lack of financial viability brought about by the ongoing pandemic and exacerbated by consistent low enrollment turnout over the past years.”

"We exhausted all possible options [and] we can safely say we did so much more than what people think we've done...Closing was our last resort, however, we were pushed against the wall. We had no other option but to close and move forward to assist the needs of our stakeholders," Dorado said. 

More questions than answers on waivers, violations

But the Quezon City local government said in the aftermath of the closure that it found out the school's property had already been put up for sale even as it continued to accept enrollees. 

Wednesday's press conference did little to clarify the controversy behind the move, as the school management simply reiterated its financial situation caused by the pandemic. 

Dorado claimed that the requirement for students and their parents to sign waivers, which Quezon City also panned earlier, was meant to make sure an investment in the property would still be attractive should the investment proceed. 

The waiver provided that the students and parents would not file a class suit upon receipt of their refunds. 

Belmonte in a later statement also disclosed that the city is looking at legal action over the school's lack of building permit, alleged illegal construction and violation of easement of waterways.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the lawyer also said that the school was forced to lower its tuition fees to attract more students. He also claimed that the school's ownership group was eventually bankrupt as a result. But he did not answer why the school still continued to accept enrollees when it was struggling financially.

"This essentially amounts to the school’s owners and administrators cutting their losses to save money, while the students, parents, teachers, and workers who actually depend on the school are left without a lifeline," the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan said in an earlier statement. 

"They were deceived, sabotaged, and lied to, making them bet their future on a school that never had their interests at heart."

Transcripts, refunds still processing

Asked for a number of how many students still have yet to process their requirements to transfer, Dorado refused to give an exact number but said it would increase in the coming days. 

Dorado also said the school was more focused on giving out refunds to affected students. But when asked how many non-refunded students remain, only said that 100 percent of tuition fees for K-12 and basic education, and more than half for college students. 

Booths from other schools and universities willing to take in students from the school have already been set up in the school's gym, Dorado said. The school's offices will also be open until September 20, 2022 for students still wishing to process their requirements and collect their refunds later on. 

“We recognize the toll of the said closure and we will not abscond. We recognize that we have a responsibility to those who have been affected…this is a heartbreaking decision for us because we treat everyone in Colegio de San Lorenzo as family," Dorado said. 

While the school was careful to emphasize that it was "doing everything" to assist affected students, as in its earlier statement, it made no mention of its former employees. 

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