The poor Lantau International School (LIS) is in trouble again over complaints of noise pollution. I have a suggestion: Come on over to Mui Wo, where there already is a purpose-built school for you. I don't see why the Christian Zheng Sheng College drug school has more claim over that vacant building than the LIS, which is also full to bursting.
Then the Christian Zheng Sheng College can move over to Pui O instead. Ex-druggies won't make a lot of noise, will they?
Lantau school digs in over noise complaints
The stand-off between an international school on Lantau and neighbouring villagers is set to worsen following the government's dismissal of an appeal by the school against a noise reduction order.
Two villagers say the dismissal vindicates their complaints about what they say is unbearable noise emanating from students, but Lantau International School on South Lantau vows it will continue its fight.
It is the second time an appeal by the school against a noise abatement order has been dismissed. The Environmental Protection Department issued an initial order in March last year. That ordered the school to ensure that noise made by its pupils did not exceed 60 decibels from September 2009 to February 2010.
Failure to comply with such an order can incur a fine of HK$100,000 and a HK$20,000 daily fine for each day noise exceeds the limit.
An appeal by the school in April 2009 failed. Following the failure of its second appeal launched this February, the school was ordered by the Noise Control Appeal Board (which handles appeals under the auspices of the Noise Control Authority), to pay costs and the compliance date was extended to August 31, 2011, so the school would have time to install a sound-absorbing glass canopy. The conflict dates back to 2007 when the school bought three village house blocks in Lo Wai Tsuen, Pui O, and created an extension of its school in Tong Fuk, also on South Lantau, to cope with an expanding roll.
School supervisor Serge Berthier said no agreement had yet been reached with the District Lands Office (Islands) about construction of the canopy. The office controls permits for such constructions.
Construction of the sound canopy was originally planned to cover the school's 75-square-metre backyard which is on government land which the school rents for HK$82,560 a year.
Berthier said the District Lands Office wanted to increase the rent by 58 per cent rent as a construction precondition.
"The rent will increase from HK$82,560 to HK$129,080 per year," Berthier said. "And, so as not to disrupt students' learning, the construction can't begin until the summer break next year. But the office wanted us to pay the increased rent from now. This is ridiculous."
With her house just "separated by a wall" from the school which occupies sites No 17 to No 19, the owner of No 20, Jenny Tam, complained to the government in 2008 about noise from the school. Noise at 62 decibels was recorded at her house, 2 decibels above the allowed limit.
Tam said the school seriously disturbed villagers' peace.
"They are not just noisy during recesses and lunch hour," she said. "Some students are allowed even during class time to have music or other activities. Can you imagine how noisy it is to live right next door to 70 or 80 children?"
But Berthier said noise measurements were done just once, in 2008 at lunchtime. "It was done at the back of the house, which to my knowledge, is a bedroom. You don't use the bedroom in the middle of the day. I asked the government to do more measurements, but it said there was no need. ."
Berthier said Tam, and the owner of an iron-making shop at block No 22 who also voiced complaints about the school, did not represent the whole village.
He accused the government of discriminating against children by singling out his school for noise measurement. "Why didn't they measure other premises like the iron-making shop?" he said.
A teacher who requested anonymity said there was nothing wrong with laughing children.
"Why consider happy children a noise? From where I come from [Canada], happy children bring joy."
The school first began 18 years ago in a vacant Tong Fuk school with only eight children but now has 200 pupils. Berthier said his was the only international school offering English-language education on South Lantau. The school had spent about HK$600,000 fighting the noise abatement order and "we will go the full way [even if we have to] spend half a million [more] to fight".