BERKELEY -- Parents and teachers at a small private school here are feverishly trying to continue classes after the family corporation that owned it since 1969 closed it earlier this month due to low enrollment.
"The story is we are trying to survive," said Dana Weld, head of The Academy, a small kindergarten through eighth grade school with an accelerated curriculum that caters to students who learn a year above traditional grade levels. Tuition ranges from $18,000 to $20,000 a year, she said.
Weld said enrollment dropped after she chose not to renew the contracts of two teachers for the 2014-15 school year. Then at the end of the school year, the board -- five children of founder Marshall H. Lombardo -- voted 3-2 July 7 to close it down.
"There were people who were unhappy with those changes, and they decided to leave and others decided to go as well," Weld said. "It was a series of unfortunate events."
She said if the new school is successful in starting up, she will step down as the head and go back to teaching fourth grade.
None of the board members of The Academy were available for comment to talk about their motivation for closing the company, the Lombardo Academy, that owned the school. Neither Weld nor parent Amelia Miazad, who is behind the new school, would provide contact information for the former board members.
Weld said remaining parents will call the new school the Elmwood Academy and will lease the same building from the five brothers and sisters who own it.
"The best of who we were and where we were is going forward," Weld said.
But she added that the school may not be able to open if it doesn't get enough students enrolled by the time school starts in late August.
The school, housed in a small building in a quiet residential neighborhood on Benvenue Avenue, has had about 90 students in recent years but saw those numbers drop to 77 last school year,
Miazad said she's confident current parents and teachers can get enough students to reopen the school with a new name and new governing structure in time for the beginning of classes.
"The school is undermarketed, so we're getting inquiries from prospective parents," Miazad said. "We'll have the same teachers and the same curriculum. The teachers are brimming with new ideas that they haven't had the opportunity to implement. All the teachers are behind the effort."
The new school also is taking donations and has created a web page on a funding site called GoFundMe at http://www.gofundme.com/blh49s.
Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.