Students, parents shocked after Calgary private school forced to close

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CALGARY- While classes are still underway at a Calgary private school, students suddenly find themselves scrambling to find a new place to enroll by next September.

On Tuesday, the province ordered the International School of Excellence to shut down, as a result of an inquiry that found financial irregularities. Among the concerns were that a BMW and 2,800 square foot home had been purchased for the school’s founder, and there were also questions about student achievement, teaching and safety.

The school has been operating out of a church basement in northeast Calgary, and has about 170 students. Parents say there is a lot of confusion surrounding the sudden announcement.

“They sent us the paper the government sent to them,” explains parent Billal Assaf. “We read it and we were so disappointed.”

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“It is pretty sad, actually, because we like the school,” adds parent Zuhra Matrta-Mohamed. “Hopefully we’ll find another school for them.”

Students are also looking for an explanation.

“I think that it’s a big tragedy for a lot of us, because we really like the school, and we really like the people we met at the school,” says Grade 11 student Mohamed Farah. “We didn’t understand really why it’s being shut down. It’s a big surprise for all of us.

“I think we’d like an explanation too from the teachers or anybody, just to go over what’s happening.”

The International School of Excellence has been ordered to close its doors for good by the end of June. However, critics say an audit should have been ordered much earlier, when concerns first surfaced back in 2012.

“If there was anything wrong on the government’s part here, it’s that they didn’t order the audit sooner.,” says Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Once the audit was out, I think the government acted in a relatively expeditious manner. But they waited too long to order the audit.”

About 70 per cent of the school’s costs were supported by taxpayers, working out to about $800,000 per year.

The province plans to help parents find new schools for their children by next fall.

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