Parents of 60 pupils took over a private West Hollywood day care center and elementary school last week after it was threatened with closure to make way for an office building.
"It is the only way we could keep the school open," said Marshall P. Leib, whose son is among the 60 children ages 2 to 7 enrolled at the Modern Education Center, 8306 Melrose Ave.
The center, located in a prime commercial area, is scheduled to be replaced by a two-story office building later this year and was to have been vacated Friday.
Trying to Raise Funds
However, the parents and the center's seven teachers prevailed upon the new owner of the property to allow them to keep the center open until the end of the school term on June 19. They also are trying to raise funds to conduct summer classes.
Leib said there will be enough money to operate the center through May.
"A majority of parents wanted to continue operations through the summer," he said, "but that will depend on the success of our fund-raising efforts."
Parents are being asked to come up with seven weeks' tuition plus 7% in advance to finance the rest of the academic year. Full-time tuition is $280 a month.
The money will be used for utilities, insurance and teacher salaries.
"This would at least give the teachers time to find new jobs and the parents time to find other facilities for their children," said Yoly Zentella, one of the teachers.
The effort to keep the school open started Monday, when staff members and parents were informed that the school would be closed Friday.
Jacob Goldenberg, who owned and operated the center before selling the property earlier in the month, told teachers that he no longer could afford to operate the facility. Telephone calls to Goldenberg's home were answered by a message machine and the calls were not returned.
"What bothered us was that Mr. Goldenberg did not tell us before that he had sold the property and given us time, say 30 days, to make other arrangements," Leib said. "The parents here are working-class and the abrupt closing of the center would have put a severe hardship on them to find other facilities."
Melrose Development Corp., the new owner of the property, expressed indignation that Goldenberg did not inform parents and teachers of the sale, said Ronald E. Seigel, vice president of Celeste Yarnall Associates, the brokers for the sale.
"The new owners were and are in no hurry for the premises to be vacated," Seigel said. "It will be several months before we obtain all of the permits we need from the city to start construction. Had I had one of my children attending the school, I would have been upset too."
Leib said the parents are renting the facility from the new owners for $1 a year, an agreement worked out quickly in a meeting Thursday in City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky's office.