And, no, I'm not joking.
I only heard about it for the first time today, but apparently it was in the newspaper last week, taking everyone--parents, students, and faculty--completely by surprise. (No one told me about it, so I only found out at the Opening Ceremony today.)
The story is that the city of Moriyama gave financial support to Heian Women's College to build a branch campus in town. Last year they decided they would move back to a different campus in Osaka somewhere and wouldn't need this one anymore. Moriyama said, well, in that case, give us our money back. The college replied they couldn't do that.
So the mayor negotiated with a private educational foundation called Ritsumeikan (which apparently has ownership of the Heian Women's College Moriyama campus). Ritsumeikan agreed to convert the campus into a high school and allow the city of Moriyama to use it free of charge--but! The high school would become Ritsumeikan's own private high school and no longer a public school.
The mayor decided that he would convert Moriyama Girls' High School into Ritsumeikan Moriyama High School. Starting next spring, with the new school year, the students will officially become Ritsumeikan High students. Not only that, it will no longer be a girls' school, it will be co-ed. It will have a general curriculum with two tracks, math/science and English. The mayor had intended to reveal this decision to the school faculty at a meeting on April 4th, and then have the teachers tell the students around April 20th once the school year had gotten underway. However, somehow the story leaked to the press and was published in a newspaper on March 30th.
The faculty of the school are furious that the mayor would make such a decision without consulting--or even informing--anyone connected with the school. The students all feel betrayed. Keep in mind that high school is not mandatory in Japan, so every student at the school chose to come to this particular school, and many commute up to an hour to get here. The business and home economics majors are aghast that their majors will no longer exist at the new school.
The mayor, superintendent, and other city dignitaries came to the Opening Ceremony to answer students' questions. Many of the students were sobbing or quivering with anger. Unfortunately, no one had any good answers to a lot of the questions because the details of the deal haven't been hashed out yet. Here's an example, though, of the kind of answers the students received:
Q: A number of girls entered this school because it's a girls' school, and they don't want to attend a school with boys. What about that problem?
A: We'll have a temporary counselor come to the school, so anyone with concerns can talk to the counselor.
Yeah. Like that'll fix everything.
This school year will go on as usual while the college campus is being renovated. Once the renovations are complete, we'll abandon the current high school building and move there. It isn't clear when that will happen. Current students have been promised that the conditions under which they were accepted to the school (such as fees, etc.) will continue at the new school until they graduate.
And then...the teachers. No one knows what will happen to our jobs, because we're all employed either by the city of Moriyama or the prefecture of Shiga, and the new school will be a private school. I'm particularly concerned, because I still haven't been given a contract to sign for next year, and there's the possibility that they'll disinvite me from staying. My only consolation at the moment is that they've worked me so thoroughly into the schedule that the other English teachers would be hard-pressed to cover for me in the fall if I were forced to leave this summer.
I'll post further details as I learn them.