SINGAPORE - Parents of more than 30 children have been frantically looking for alternative spots and seeking refunds with the impending closure of a third preschool run by a businesswoman who was recently jailed for contempt of court.
The Frobel preschool in Kallang is expected to cease operations at the end of this month, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in response to media queries.
It added that 32 children would be affected by the impending closure.
While ECDA has been "working closely with the preschool as well as the parents affected by the closures to find alternative preschool places in the vicinity", a small number have yet to land a suitable spot, it said.
MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling said that a parent affected by the Kallang closure has approached her for help, and she got in touch with ECDA to help find a placement for the parent's two children.
While the centre is outside her constituency, a number of affected parents live in her ward.
"I've been in touch with a volunteer lawyer who is willing to assist these parents, should they need legal help," she told The Straits Times over the phone, adding that she is ready to provide a link-up for her residents if need be.
Song Fanrong, 45, who previously ran the Kallang preschool and seven other centres, was jailed on Sept 11 for breaching the Mareva injunction after three plaintiffs brought contempt of court proceedings against her.
She had sold off a stake of her kindergarten business despite a court order to freeze her assets, pending the outcome of another lawsuit. She is being sued for $9.5 million by the three businessmen from China, for alleged fraud.
The impending closure in Kallang follows closures of two other preschools run by Song - in Sembawang and Namly Place - in late August.
There are five remaining preschools under Friedrich Frobel Holding.
But it is not only the issue of alternative placements that have raised concern.
Some parents told The Straits Times they have made police reports regarding deposit fees that the preschools have allegedly failed to return.
A mother who wanted to be known only as Ms Teo, 26, said she and other parents were informed by Song's husband, Mr Teo Kuei Yang, last Saturday (Sept 16) that the Kallang preschool would be closing at the end of the month.
"When we questioned the husband about our deposit fees, he could not give us an answer regarding the refund," said the clerical officer.
Her two daughters, aged three and two, attended the Kallang centre's childcare, and she said she is owed over $2,000 for a month's deposit for both children.
She added that she knew of around 20 other families facing a similar issue.
"When the news of Madam Song's lawsuit first broke, they issued a letter that the preschool would not be closed and everything was going smoothly," she said. "I thought that everything would be fine, because of their assurance."
Police confirmed that a report was lodged regarding this incident.
Another parent, whose five-year-old daughter attended the Sembawang preschool that had closed, said she had been given around two weeks' notice before the closure.
"Madam Song and her husband met us at the preschool on Aug 19," said the 37-year-old teacher who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan.
"They told us that they had no more money to pay the rental, which was up to August, so they had to close," she said, adding that she is owed $1,100 in deposit fees and another $1,200 in subsidies that the school did not return to her.
She intends to make a police report as well.
When contacted, Mr Teo said he was present at the meetings with parents as his wife needed his help translating information to English-speakers.
Asked about the issue of deposit fees, he said: "I can't comment, because I am not with the company's management, nor a shareholder."
ECDA said it has asked the operator to make its plans clear for the remaining five preschools and that it would continue to monitor their operations.
It has also reminded the operator of its obligation to give six months' formal notice to parents before any preschool can be closed.
"Regulatory action has already been initiated by ECDA against the operator for breaching this requirement when it closed two of its preschools on Aug 31," said an ECDA spokesman.
ECDA has also directed Friedrich Frobel Holding not to enrol new students for these preschools, until it has clarified its plans and provided an update on the status of its ongoing legal suit, it said.