Shut down on opening day

The sudden closure of Colegio de San Lorenzo was met with anger, sadness, despair, and disappointment by students who rushed to the 34-year-old Catholic school to get their transfer credentials Tuesday.

Students lined up on the back street of the Quezon City school only to be told that the accounting office was closed.

Security guards said only school credentials will be given, telling students to come back on Wednesday for their cash refunds.

“Is it that easy to close up shop?” asked Shann Shamuel Suarez, a graduating student taking up Communication Arts Major in Film.

The bad news

On Monday, the start of face-to-face classes, students and parents were stunned after being told during a hastily-called general assembly that the school will be permanently closed due to the financial instability and lack of economic viability brought about by the ongoing pandemic and low enrollment.

Also affected were students in pre-school, elementary and high school.

Tears fell and emotions ran high as students and parents took turns questioning the action and timing of the school administration.

Lawyers, representing the institution, assured the full refund of fees paid and assistance to facilitate the transfer of students to other schools.

Suarez said she hopes the school will reconsider its decision and allow seniors to graduate.

“It will be difficult for us to find another school,” he complained. “If and when we can find another school, can we afford it?”

Teachers to lose jobs

Sobrang na dehado,” remarked a teary-eyed Andrea Bernadette Villa Juan, another student finishing her psychology degree.

“In many schools that we’ve gone to, enrolment is already closed. Classes have started,” Villa Juan said.

She said she’s also concerned with the plight of teachers and other personnel who would lose their jobs.

Villa Juan fears that some of her subjects might not be credited when she transfers to another school.

Fear and helplessness

Paul Magalona, an incoming freshman, said he hopes that he could get his papers and money quickly.

“I enrolled early only to be told the school is closing on opening day. It’s cruel,” he said.

“I don’t want to go back and forth here. It’s tiring. I still have a lot to do at home, and I’m also taking care of my two siblings, one of whom is a PWD.”

Raymund Cabanilla, an incoming junior taking up a Bachelor of Elementary Education Major in Special Education, said he’s worried that he may end up repeating his second year during the transfer.

“It’s sad because instead of only two years of my studies, another year might be added if I switch to other schools. Other subjects might not get credit,” he said, adding he’s angry but can do nothing.

School to the rescue

Meanwhile, the Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City sent a representative to assist students who may want to transfer.

“We are willing to absorb students of the Colegio de San Lorenzo,” said Mark Norma Catudio who works in the OLFU admission office.

The OLFU representative, however, was not allowed to enter the campus, saying employees were busy processing documents.

“Some of their students are trying to reach out, and they are emailing us that they wanted to transfer to us. That’s why we went here to assist them,” Catudio said.

“We regret to hear that the school is closing down because its reputation is so good, but whatever their legacy is, we can continue it in our university if we can accommodate their students,” he added.

Officials not available

School officials were not available for reaction as did Commission on Higher Education chairperson Prospero de Vera III who was in a meeting at Congress.

The Department of Education, on the other hand, called on other schools to absorb students affected by the closure.

DepEd spokesperson lawyer Michael Poa said DepEd’s primary concern right now is the “displaced learners.”

“There is already a private school in Quezon City that got in touch with DepEd and informed us that it is willing to absorb students, particularly Grades 11 and 12, at the same tuition rate as that of Colegio de San Lorenzo,” Poa said in a Viber message.

“We hope more schools would do the same,” he added.

According to Poa, the school management did not formally inform DepEd of its intent to close.

“Upon verifying the matter with the regional director concerned, Colegio de San Lorenzo had no prior communication with DepEd regarding the closure,” he said.

“This is a voluntary closure as provided under Section 43 of Department Order 88 s. 2010,” the DepEd official added.

Poa explained that DepEd will only issue an acknowledgment of closure once the agency is assured that the transfer credentials of the affected students are processed and released by the school.

The DepEd official also said that private school teachers who are terminated due to the voluntary closure of private schools shall be entitled to separation pay as stated under Section 84 of Department Order 88 s. 2010.

“As to any form of assistance that the DepEd can provide, we will explore this. But again, I have to emphasize that these are private school teachers,” Poa said.

The paper also endeavored to interview any of the school officials or even one of its faculty but none was available.

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