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District rethinks need for leased space

Superintendent Gary Plano has reconsidered his “preliminary indication” that the School District would need to recapture the North Mercer campus, thereby evicting Pixie Hill Preschool and Little Acorn Day School from the premises. As of Jan. 20, the MISD superintendent maintains that “there is a very strong likelihood — over 90 percent — that we will no longer need the North Mercer space.”

Plano’s decision was announced after he and Associate Superintendent of Business Services Liz Ziara discussed the matter with Pixie Hill volunteer board president Anne Marie Krivens. The two administrators met with Krivens on Jan. 20 to hear her concern about telling parents, who began registering for next year’s session on Jan. 21, that the preschool was being forced to move to an unknown location.

On Jan. 5, Plano sent a notice of lease termination to Pixie Hill Preschool and Little Acorn Day School — both located in the North Mercer Campus — notifying the tenants that the space may be recaptured due to district needs.

Plano later clarified these “needs” as additional classroom space for the special education preschool program currently held at West Mercer, which faces growing enrollment.

“That was the reason for the notice. We’d outgrown our space at West Mercer,” Plano said. Yet upon hearing how distraught Pixie Hill and Little Acorn directors and parents were at news of their eviction, Plano and Ziara revisited district options.

“I needed time to look at other options,” the superintendent explained. “I’m working with my team to look at a portable move over to Islander Middle School. We like that feature because [IMS principal] Mary Jo Budzius and [Vice Principal] Aaron Miller are interested in interacting IMS students with the preschool program.”

The directors of Pixie Hill and Little Acorn —after believing that they had less than 180 days to find a new location — are relieved by the news.

“We are elated,” said Pixie Hill director Ann Connolly. “I’m very grateful to Gary and the district to give us another year.”

Yet Little Acorn Day School owner Tiana Traylor is still taking precaution.

“I’m still looking for a house on the Island. I need to make plans for the eventuality that we may have to move. But I can take my time now,” Traylor said, adding that she still needed to hear the details from Plano himself. “Even if we do get to stay here, I think I’ll still look for a new house and add another preschool group. It’s much needed.”

The owners of Pixie Hill and Little Acorn, which have operated at North Mercer for years, signed a five-year lease agreement with the district in 2005. The district still reserves the right to terminate the school’s lease, as the 180-day notice was not officially recalled.

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