Thousands sign petition to save school gate

News that gate at Maris Stella High School is to be demolished surprises parents and students

Maris Stella alumni Richard Chen was among several people who visited the school to take photos of the gate yesterday. Madam Joey Chong, a healthcare worker in her 40s, taking photographs of her son, Sky Seah (in red T-shirt), and his classmate Rapha
Madam Joey Chong, a healthcare worker in her 40s, taking photographs of her son, Sky Seah (in red T-shirt), and his classmate Raphael Lim, both 13, outside Maris Stella High School, with the gate behind them, yesterday. The boys are former pupils of the school. The gate is set to be demolished to make way for housing development. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The planned demolition of a school gate, built in 1997, to make way for housing development in Bidadari has sparked a petition with more than 2,800 signatures to save it.

The removal of the gate at Maris Stella High School, slated for after May 31, was announced in a Facebook post on Wednesday night and was a shock to parents and students, both past and present.

Yesterday morning, Mr Harold Yeo, whose son is a Secondary 4 student at the school, started a Change.org petition to the Housing and Development Board and National Archives of Singapore to preserve the blue and white structure.

A signboard near the school in Mount Vernon Road said construction works involved road widening.

Mr Yeo, a 41-year-old financial adviser, said the gate is a symbol of the school, adding: "I don't think I find such a structure in any of the other Catholic schools."

The lobby for the gate's preservation gained traction among parents as the news rippled through their chat groups, said Ms Pauline Tan, whose Sec 3 son has been a student at the school for the past nine years.

"The structure is very majestic and has features that are representative of its bicultural identity... If we had known earlier, there could at least be some discussion," said the healthcare manager who is in her early 50s.

Mr Jared Quek, 18, now a full-time national serviceman, said: "I remember walking through that gate on my first day of school.

"I think that it's a pity for them to remove it as it's really an iconic structure through which people can relate to Maris Stella."

Mr James Tan Kiat Joon, 18, who graduated in 2018, said his Sec 4 form teacher had a wedding photo taken there, while Sec 1 student Justin Kam Rui Jie said it felt like their "sacred place" was being removed.

At about 6.30pm yesterday, there were several people at the school, snapping pictures. They included Mr Richard Chen, who was a Maris Stella student between 1976 and 1986.

Maris Stella alumni Richard Chen was among several people who visited the school to take photos of the gate yesterday. Madam Joey Chong, a healthcare worker in her 40s, taking photographs of her son, Sky Seah (in red T-shirt), and his classmate Rapha
Maris Stella alumni Richard Chen was among several people who visited the school to take photos of the gate yesterday.  PHOTO: COURTESY OF RICHARD CHEN

He said that alumni like himself were planning to take photos of the gate in the next few weeks.

"Back when I was studying at Maris Stella, Bidadari was a cemetery so this place was very quiet. The old gate (before this one) wasn't too much of a memory... I feel sad that this too has to go but there is not so much of a choice," said the 51-year-old engineer.

In its Facebook post, Maris Stella High School - which has been at its location for more than 50 years - said a new archway will be constructed within the school after the new entrance in Bartley Walk is completed.

"If demolition is inevitable, we hope that the structure can be replicated with its current features, including the existing wording and blue tiles," said Mr Yeo.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2021, with the headline 'Thousands sign petition to save school gate'. Subscribe