Ministry of Education gives more details on new JC's delay in letter

SINGAPORE - The Education Ministry (MOE) gave more details on the delay of the new junior college (JC), meant to take in Integrated Programme students from Catholic High, St Nicholas Girls', and Singapore Chinese Girls schools, on Thursday morning.

In a three-page long letter, the ministry said the new JC's delay was because MOE needed to incorporate the Land Transport Authority's future transport infrastructure into the design and construction of the new campus.

The new JC will be Singapore's first high-rise one and would require "more extensive pre-construction works" than the ministry had earlier anticipated, such as soil investigations.

As these works can be "quite disruptive", the ministry will only carry them out after the current lessee, the Nature Park Driving Range, moves out at the year end.

The ministry said these reasons contributed to the delay in the completion of the new JC.

The letter, signed by Mr Wong Kang Jet, director of finance and development division, and Ms Lim Huay Chih, director of the school planning and placement division, was given to students in the morning, and uploaded on the websites of the three secondary schools.

Integrated Programme students of the three schools and their parents were told on April 13 that the new JC they would be entering, sited on the junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Marymout Road, would not be completed by its the mid-2018 target, and will instead be delayed till the end of 2019.

Students in the Integrated Programme go straight to JC without sitting for the O levels.

But the JC will start operating in 2017 at a temporary holding site.

The holding site was originally planned to be at Bishan Street 14, the former campus of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), but has now changed to Mount Sinai, where Raffles Junior College used to be.

St Joseph's Institution is now using the Bishan space as its interim campus, while its school in Malcolm Road undergoes upgrading. The school is likely to extend its stay in Bishan until mid-2017, due to construction delays at the Malcolm Road campus.

The change has made some parents upset, some of whom have written to The Straits Times' Forum pages, as the new holding site is further away from the three schools now.

But the ministry said in the letter that it had known, since the start of this year, that the Bishan holding site will not be ready to take in students from the new JC by January 2017.

It then explored the available options, and found the Mount Sinai site to be the most suitable alternative, with the available facilities and capacity to accommodate a full cohort of JC students.

The Mount Sinai holding site will "undergo extensive rejuvenation", Mr Wong and Ms Lim wrote in the letter.

The running track and school field will be rebuilt, the science laboratories will be replaced, and additional facilities such as music studios, informal study spaces and wireless connectivity will be added to the Mount Sinai campus, to prepare it for the JC students entering in 2017.

An artist's impression of the holding site will be available by end September.

The ministry is also discussing alternative transport arrangements for affected students with the principals of the new JC and the three secondary schools, the letter said.

leepearl@sph.com.sg