International school in Brussels under threat of eviction
Sunday, 20 June 2021
Credit: Roots and Wings
Roots and Wings, an inclusive school for mainly expat children in Parc Parmentier, Woluwe Saint-Pierre, faces imminent eviction this week if its lease is not extended or an alternative location is found after the summer vacation.
As previously reported, the school has been renting a building in the parc since 2011 from Les Stations de Plein Air ASBL, a private association managing the buildings in the parc on behalf of Brussels Capital-Region. The association refuses to extend the contract, which until now has been renewed each year.
Its management has not replied to repeated requests from The Brussels Times for comment and has also rejected an offer by the regional ombudsman for mediation. A letter sent by the regional government to the school was reportedly kept for a week by the association until it was handed over to the school.
Both regional and local authorities appear powerless and are referring to an “emphyteutic” lease, a kind of perpetual contract, by which Brussels Capital-Region has ceded the buildings in the parc to the association without, as it appears, any external control or supervision.
The regional government did not reply to questions about its relation to the association and its responsibility for enabling international schools to operate in Brussels. However, a regional body, Perspective Brussels, a multidisciplinary expert body with responsibility for the region’s socio-economic development, contacted the school last week to discuss an alternative location.
One of the missions of Perspective Brussels is to provide every pupil in Brussels with a quality school place. Finding a new location may take a while and Brussels Capital-Region has asked Les Stations de Plein Air to give the school the time necessary to find a new and suitable location. It should be close to or located in a parc since direct contact with nature is essential for the school’s teaching approach.
Roots and Wings is recognised as an educational institution, but as its main teaching language is English, it does not receive any public grants and is financed by parent fees. The fees are relatively moderate and comparable to the average costs in the Belgian compulsory education. For children with special needs, about 20 % of the total number in the school, they are actually lower.
Woluwe-Saint-Pierrre, the municipality where the school is located, is popular among expats in Brussels with up to one third of its inhabitants EU citizens. Many of the parents of the children in the school are living in the municipality. Its mayor, Benoît Cerexhe, declined to comment but his spokesperson confirmed to The Brussels Times that the municipality is trying to find a solution.
“We would prefer the school to stay on our territory because it welcomes a lot of expats for which we care,” said Arnaud Despiegelaere, in charge of communication. “The problem is not the quality of the school, which is a fact, but the location problem, since it is hiring a building in a regional park whose management is given to a private association, Les Stations de Plein Air”.
“The municipality doesn’t have any authority on the management of Parc Parmentier and its buildings,” he added.