Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moving forward

Upattinas has big news to report, and we think that it's good news: We have decided to place the Upattinas campus on the market. (If you have been to any meetings lately, you may already know this, but please read on anyway.)

So why is this good news? First and foremost, because we are taking this action because we want to, not because we have to. To be frank, there was a point last year when our finances were such that we thought we might be forced to sell our property. But then we took several steps that turned things around: We consolidated all students to the Stone Building. We cut costs to the bone. We (very reluctantly) cut staff. We obtained $196,000 in grants. Those steps allowed us the breathing room to decide where we wanted our future to be. It took a couple of years of research and consensus-building (this is Upattinas, after all), but we decided that it's time for us to move. You are part of our family, so we'd like you to know our reasoning:
  • We no longer need a campus this large. Our student population is in the 40-50 range now and is unlikely to reach 100 again for several years. The Great Recession has impacted enrollment at most private schools, and we are no exception. School districts are making greater efforts to keep students in their home schools. Homeschooling, charter schools, cyber schools, a la carte online courses (e.g. Khan Academy, MIT Open Courseware) and other options offer cheaper alternatives to private school.

  • The real estate market is favorable. While it's not a seller's market, it's a great time to buy or rent. Prices are low, and so are interest rates -- a rare combination. We had the property appraised at $1.2 million over the summer. Even if we don't get a full-price offer, we should make enough to pay off our $300,000 mortgage and buy or rent a new, smaller campus.

  • Our current campus is very expensive. While "homey," it's drafty, leaky, and environmentally unfriendly (we heat with oil). We'd need hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the necessary repairs, maintenance and landscaping to truly shape up our school. Upattinas has no maintenance department. The teachers and office staff spend countless hours just trying to make the school habitable. This takes a toll on them and their students.
The prospect of moving is daunting, but also very exciting!
  • We can move to a more visible, accessible location, with a higher concentration of potential students (and maybe even near a train stop).

  • We can move closer to a downtown, with greater access to parks, cultural institutions, stores, restaurants, recreation and educational partners.

  • We can move closer to an area with a more culturally diverse population.

  • We can have a safer, greener, more attractive, lower-maintenance setting.

  • We can house the students, office, art, and music programs in one building.
And we can use this defining moment in our history to shape our school exactly the way want it to be in the years ahead.

We hope that you can now agree that this is wonderful -- if somewhat daunting -- news. Rest assured that the Board, students, staff, and parents are all in agreement on this momentous decision. There's no question that we will be sad to leave our home of the past 30-plus years. But we realize that Upattinas is not simply a place; it's people, and an idea, and a spirit. And those will endure, wherever we are.

It's likely to take a while to find a buyer for the school property. When we do, we'll insist upon moving when school is not in session (the summertime). We certainly don't expect anything to happen during the current school year. But we are putting out feelers to potential buyers and have contacted a real estate agent. When the time comes that we receive an offer that we feel is a good one, we will consult the community before accepting it. In the meantime, we’ve already started looking at possible new locations.

Our Upattinas community can look upon the past 40 years with great pride. We will carry our proud history with us over the next 40 years and beyond. We ask you to join us in this adventure.