THE BRONX (PIX11) —- This isn’t the way Lois Gregory envisioned the start of the school year. Instead of getting ready to greet incoming students at the Learning Tree Cultural Preparatory School, she is moving out of the building.
“We were given three months to vacate and vacate 22 classes and 300 children and to have so many people lose jobs–it’s not easy,” founder and principal Lois Gregory said.
In the spring, the landlord told her that he had gotten a better offer for the lease. A charter school, willing to pay $90,000 a month, will take over the space.
“He found someone, a charter school that’s moving in, that will pay three times the amount we are paying. And as he told us it’s a deal that he cannot turn down. We understand that, but it hurts us very much,” she added.
It’s not just upsetting for staff. Parents have also been hurt by the news.
“Hearing my children would have to uproot and move to another place is very upsetting and nerve-wracking for me as a parent because this is the only place that they have known their entire educational life,” parent Raina Braboy said.
The administration was first told they’d have to be out of the building by Aug. 31, but the landlord granted an extension through September. Gregory and her staff will have to pack up decades of furniture and memories and put it in storage.
The private school was founded about 40 years ago and for about half that time, it has been in the Bronx’s Williamsbridge neighborhood. It’s mission: a good education at a low cost to parents who get to collaborate with teachers. Its focus on cultural pride is one of the reasons Ahtiya Lyles, a former student, came back here to teach.
“When I was a student here, we were always taught our history, our culture and to be proud of who we are and that has stuck with me from when i was a little girl,” Lyles said.
The students, ranging from kindergarteners through middle schoolers, will have to attend school virtually, for now. The administration is working to secure temporary space at a local church. They are negotiating for a permanent building, but that deal wouldn’t be ready in time for this school year. The school has a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising the $1 million it needs to do that.
Braboy believes so strongly in the school, that she and her two children will wait it out.
“It’s unfortunate that this is a business,” Braboy said. “I understand the landlord’s reasoning, but I also know my children’s education is going to cost whatever it is going to cost.”
Because of the uncertainty, enrollment at the Learning Tree has dropped by about 50%.