Fair Oaks Preschool says it’s reopening Wednesday, but will have to close in six weeks.
Fair Oaks Executive Director Elizabeth Brown told Pasadena Now she’s reached out to Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church multiple times since being notified in January 2019 the school’s lease won’t be renewed beyond June 2020, but the church won’t budge. She claims the church is instead going to let Sequoyah School expand its footprint on the church campus at 301 N. Orange Grove Blvd.
Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church said in a statement emailed to Pasadena Now: “A year and a half ago, the decision was made not to renew the leasing agreement with Fair Oaks Preschool based on the best opportunities for Neighborhood Church’s financial and congregational growth. We have been successful partners for 11 years and we have made every effort to support Fair Oaks in this transition. As the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted normal operations, we have offered financial flexibility to Fair Oaks through June 2020 and will continue to support them as best we can.”
Brown says she and her team have physically looked at 40 properties in a seven-mile radius of the school’s current location, closeby so as not to lose too many families currently enrolled, and have scoped out 100 properties online.
“We did put in letters of intent for at least five properties, including one that was a Pasadena Unified School District property. And unfortunately we have not been able to secure a site through that process.”
While the 18 months’ notice Neighborhood gave Fair Oaks Preschool might seem like a lot of time, Brown says a school would normally need three years to find a new site and move.
She says the COVID-19 pandemic has made the search exponentially harder “because it changes the perspectives of landlords,” and because “our doors have been closed since March 15, our income has not been steady, so it’s created a big gap in our ability to, number one, serve our families, but number two, also be able to continue searching.”
Fair Oaks, however, is reopening Wednesday, albeit for a small number of children from families of essential workers and people listed as exempt under the governor’s stay-at-home orders.
Brown says before the pandemic 43 kids were enrolled in the preschool. That number has dropped to 30, but Brown says she expects only a handful of kids to show up starting Wednesday.
“We are following to the ‘T’ the guidelines that are set into place from (the state) Community Care Licensing, the CDC, as well as the Pasadena and Los Angeles County health departments.”
Brown says all staff and teachers will be wearing masks, and the children will be encouraged to do the same.
“We will continue as a nonprofit as we search for a new location,” Brown said. “We are dedicated to continuing the search and hopefully reopening as soon as possible.”