School Strife

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ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Student numbers at an Antiguan private school have plummeted amid soaring tuition fees and controversy over the land it occupies.

Concerned parents told OBSERVER Media they saw less than a dozen pupils at CCSET International Academy when it reopened after the summer break on Thursday.

Tuition fees at the Langfords-based institution – which describes itself as catering to “exceptional students” – more than doubled this year from $12,000 to a whopping $25,000.

Parents were informed of the increase via email during the summer vacation.

But adding fuel to the fire is growing angst over claims the school may not own the site it occupies. The rumours have been strongly denied by principal Teresa Emmanuel but it appears to be doing little to abate parents’ concerns.

One concerned mother, who spoke with OBSERVER Media on the condition of anonymity, said she counted around 11 students at the school last Thursday.

“They have never been a big school but at their peak, I think the year before, they had about 90 kids,” she said.

“On the roster to come back they had 25 kids this year, and (last Thursday), which is supposed to be the first day, I counted like 11 kids.”

Ms Emmanuel spoke with OBSERVER Media the week before school opened. She said, in no unclear terms, that the school would open on Thursday, September 6, and dismissed gossip over the land ownership as “just the normal Antigua rumours that they like.”

As Emmanuel promised the school opened as planned on Thursday. But the parent that spoke with OBSERVER Media was not comforted.

“I don’t know if I will show up next week and the door will be locked,” she lamented.

CCSET was founded by Emmanuel and her husband Boris in 2006. Their son Brent Emmanuel also taught at the school. Also of concern to parents is the fact that both Boris and Brent are no longer on the island. Reportedly, there is only now one full time teacher at CCSET and one co-op teacher (an overseas student-teacher on practical training) on a four-month contract with the school.

Another parent, who recently removed her child from the school, outlined a plethora of problems that she had with the administration.

The parent of the former student, also unwilling to speak on the record, accused the school of using predominantly online teaching methods. She claimed students sit at computers and work much of the day unsupervised.

OBSERVER Media was also told that several parents of special–needs children have taken them out of the school and started a new school focused on special needs. CCSET’s special-needs teachers have reportedly also left.

Despite efforts by Ms Emmanuel to quell fears, some parents remain uneasy.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)

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