Jing'an officials investigate sudden pre-school closure

The market watchdog is helping parents after the Pine Cone Baby early education center closed down without warning.

Jing'an District's market watchdog will work with other departments to deal with the fallout from the sudden closure of a branch of the Pine Cone Baby early education chain.

The District Market Supervision and Management Bureau said it had spoken with school representatives, the neighborhood committee and other agencies.

The district education bureau has said the school on Gonghexing Road had been operating without its authority. The bureau is offering help for parents of children aged above 3 who are now looking for a new school.

The school was dark inside and a few workers and parents were standing outside when Shanghai Daily visited on Tuesday.

A young female worker told Shanghai Daily that as of Tuesday, 100 families were yet to receive a refund and the employees had not been paid.

"The school stopped paying social security for us in December last year and, starting February, our monthly wages were delayed," she said, adding workers had been told the school may be sold, but that they would be paid in full regardless of what happened.

But the most senior people in charge of the school have left — parents and the more than 10 staff have been unable to contact them.

The weekend early education classes were suspended in the first week of May. Nursery classes lasted until last weekend, when the school closed completely.

"We contacted the legal representative of the company, surnamed Xu, but learned from him that he could not help much for the moment because his assets are frozen due to the back rent owed by a Pine Cone Baby branch in Wuxi City," the female worker said.

She said the parents estimated the school owed them a total of about 600,000 yuan (US$95,000).

Shanghai Daily was unable to contact a senior school official, surnamed Tang, who the parents dealt with. Xu told Shanghai Daily that he is now the person in charge of dealing with the parents.

The other Shanghai Pine Cone Baby center, in Changning District, said it operates independently and is unaware of the situation in Jing'an. Pine Cone Baby has three schools — two in Shanghai and one in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.

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