“Well, we’re certainly delighted that they considered the reduction, especially in these tough economic times,” said Linda Miller, principal of Mountain View Christian School, which is leasing the Almond Grove Elementary School site. “We are very grateful.”
But while the board in its March 9 meeting unanimously agreed to amend the contract – from $19,000 to $12,000 per month – the adjustment came with a stern warning.
“There is a very tortured history (with Mountain View) in terms of payments and repeated promises to pay,” said district legal counsel Michael McKeeman. “And those promises have been broken time and again. I urge Mountain View to make their payments on time from here on out.”
As for the outstanding payments reportedly owed for January, February and March of this year, Miller said that while she could not speak for financial controller Dustin Hanoum, she was sure the outstanding debt would be paid.
“We are not intentionally not paying our lease,” said Miller. “We are doing the very best we can to make sure that our obligations are met. Who isn’t behind on something? We’re doing all we can to get caught up and I can tell you that the leadership, these men, are great men who have given and sacrificed a lot to keep the school running and they are committed to providing the education our families need.”
A recent story in The Press on the school district’s plans to explore alternative options for the Almond Grove site once the church lease expires on June 30 drew fire from some Mountain View parents, congregation members and even church officials, who maintain they were unaware that the Christian center’s lease would not be renewed past the current school year.
“I am sending this to let you know the Trinity Christian School should not be closed,” wrote Andrea Relva-Ternes in a recent e-mail to the OUESD. “This is a great school, the teachers and staff are amazing and the children enjoy being at school here. Please consider all the children that attend Trinity School and how closing it down for other uses would drastically change their lives.”
OUESD Superintendent Rick Rogers said there has been no talk of extending the lease since April of 2009, when Mountain View officials approached the OUESD Board in an attempt to explore a long-term lease with the district or an option to buy the property.
In an e-mail dated May 6, 2009 from Rogers to Dustin Hanoum, Rogers conveyed the board’s decision: “Tonight I reaffirmed with the board that they have no interest in entering into a long-term agreement on Almond Grove. We are still willing to extend the lease through 2010-11 …”
And in a recent interview, Rogers continued to take exception to the idea that the OUESD was forcing the Christian center out. “The district is very disappointed that members of the Mountain View Christian Center have accused the district of not caring about their students,” Rogers said.
“The reality is that the district had multiple opportunities to issue Mountain View a Notice of Default as far back as September of 2009. Instead, for the sake of the Mountain View students, the district has chosen to allow the lease to run its natural course. If the district has been guilty of anything, it is of being too nice and too benevolent for the sake of the MountainView students.”
Funded by Measure H bond dollars, Almond Grove Elementary School was built in 2007. The school was originally slated to provide for the expected influx of students from the construction of the Pulte Homes Magnolia Park subdivision and to accommodate overflow from nearby Laurel Elementary, located within the Magnolia Park attendance area. In June of 2008, the OUESD entered into a lease agreement with Mountain View Christian Center to lease the school as a church site and private school.
Miller said the church community has been informed of the possibility the center might be required to leave Almond Grove in June, and added that if that’s the case, the school will find another location: “Yes, I can tell you that our parents have been told that if we do have to move from this facility, we will not be closing down our church or school. We are going to continue to be a strong and vibrant organization. I can tell you that we are exploring some options and that we will continue to do so. We are very hopeful and positive.”
Rogers feels hopeful and positive as well. “The district is finally in a position to consider the options for opening Almond Grove as a viable district school as soon as possibly 2012-13,” he said. “Unfortunately, that very important fact has been lost in this whole situation. But it’s something we’re very excited about.”
For more information, visit www.ouesd.k12.ca.us.