Updated at 1 p.m., Jan. 24: Members of the committee working to keep the school open say they’ve received a verbal offer from the foundation that would allow the school to remain in the building rent-free for one year, with the option to renew for one more year.
One week before Beginning with Children Charter School’s board takes a final vote on whether to close the school, board members say they still don’t have a crucial piece of information: whether the school will be required to move out of its current building.
“They seem to be willing for us to stay there for one year, maybe two,” board member Jeffrey Unger said, referring to the Beginning with Children Foundation, which controls the lower school’s building at 11 Bartlett St. in Williamsburg. “They were reluctant to put anything in writing.”
The space issue is key for the committee of parents and two of the school’s four active board members now working to find a way for the school to remain open without the school’s charter management organization, the Beginning with Children Foundation. Unger, a real estate broker, has said it would be impossible for the school to secure new space by fall 2014.
The foundation announced early last year that it would be withdrawing support, including the space for the lower school, after a disagreement over teachers’ union contracts. In November, that led the school’s board to vote to dissolve its charter and close the school at the end of this year, even though its charter allowed it to operate for two more years.
The foundation declined to comment on its timeline for making a decision about 11 Bartlett St. “There are ongoing discussions over the building, but they are private and we’re going to respect their privacy,” foundation spokesman Bob Bellafiore said.
Beginning with Children Charter School was created by philanthropists Joe and Carol Reich in the early 1990s, and its autonomous model helped pave the way for New York City’s charter school movement. It converted to a charter school in 2001.
Here’s the full backstory on the fight over Beginning with Children. The board is scheduled to take a final vote, either affirming or reversing its previous decision to return the school’s charter, on Jan. 30.