Lease complications have postponed the conversion of the shuttered Royal Palm Beach Albertsons grocery store site into a planned charter school.
Charter Schools USA, parent company of the Renaissance Charter School at Palms West, informed interested parents last week that the school would not open as planned in August.
According to school officials, the project was thrown off schedule due to difficulties associated with the sale and lease of the building. The delays made an August opening impossible. The situation came to a head at a meeting April 17 with various parties associated with the project. The letter to parents went out April 18.
“We really were not expecting it to play out this way, certainly not that the transactions on the facility side were going to be held up,” Charter Schools USA Vice President of Development Richard Page told the Town-Crier on Wednesday. “Unfortunately they were, and the result of that was our contractors could no longer guarantee that the facility would be open in time for school opening in August. Therefore we made the decision — and it really was the best decision — to just announce now that it’s not going to happen.”
Page said the project was already operating on a tight deadline. “The charter process is always a tight deadline,” he said. “You don’t get approval until late in the fall, and you work with very tight constraints.”
The Royal Palm Beach Village Council approved the school’s application for a special exception for the site in March. The school was to have 1,145 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, with about six classes per grade.
Page said the school was working on a long-term lease with an option to purchase in the future, but there were multiple parties involved, including outparcel tenants who also were involved with an agreement.
“You had Albertsons, which doesn’t own the property; you have an individual person who owns the property; and then they have a mortgage, so there’s a bank involved,” he said. “You have multiple organizations with easement rights to the property, the vendors around, so there were many parties that were involved, and at the end of the day, certain signatures and signoffs did not get processed fast enough to close the deal.”
Page said plans to open a charter school in the area remain in the works, but have been delayed for a year.
“Our objective is to open in 2013,” he said. “Whether or not it is at this particular facility still remains to be seen. We are still engaged in dialogue with these folks. However, given the fact that we are definitely delayed for a year, we will consider other alternatives that are out there to ensure that we can be successful with the facility this time.”
Page said he did not have any specific alternate sites in mind currently because they had been totally focused on the Albertsons site. “We have an opportunity to step back now, so we will,” he said.
Page was thankful for all the help provided by Royal Palm Beach to make the project work. He noted that all issues surrounding the Albertsons site had been worked through from the village’s perspective, including traffic concerns that had been addressed with conditions of approval.
“We’re very disappointed, but we are very appreciative of the support in the community,” he said, explaining that informing the interested families was especially difficult because so many had expressed an interest. “There were already over 500 people who had applied, and most have expressed their disappointment as well as desire to remain informed about options and the potential of opening next year.”
Page pointed out that another Renaissance Charter School is set to open at 1889 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. in West Palm Beach. That location will be starting enrollment next week.
“We will be inviting the folks from this area to come to that school,” he said. “It’s a little bit farther away. The intent was for it to be in a separate area.”
For more information on that option, visit www.westpalmcharter.org.
Page said his company wishes to continue a dialogue with parents interested in the Renaissance Charter School at Palms West. “It’s very much our intent to get that school open for next school year,” he said.