The decision means that Mini Einstein’s Learning Center and five other tenants at Woodway Elementary School will have to vacate the building by June 9 of this year as opposed to June of 2016. The District is exercising a recapture clause, which allows the District to terminate the lease without penalty on 120 days’ notice to a tenant, if the premises are needed for school purposes.
Mini Einstein has been operating under a year-to-year lease and the current lease is scheduled to end in August. During a meeting last summer with District officials, Mini Einstein co-owner Samantha Sciacca was told that the District would allow Mini Einstein to stay through June 2016.
But because of the changing business environment, the District decided to move up the construction of Lynndale Elementary. The District will save an estimated $600,000 by not waiting a year.
The District’s plan is to move Lynndale Elementary students into Woodway Elementary in September and to start the demolition of Lynndale Elementary at that time.
The Board’s decision was a tough blow for Sciacca and her husband William, who were hoping for additional time so that they could find a new location, do renovations and obtain the needed licenses to operate their business. It’s possible and maybe even likely that Mini-Einstein will have to close down for a period of time before it will be able to operate out of another facility.
“I think it (Board’s decision) came more as a blow to officially hear it,” Samantha Sciacca said. “It hit me harder than I thought it would. I always think there’s hope, but it’s just shocking.”
Mini Einstein Center serves about 100 children and families and employs 20 staff members. The Center’s focus is on teaching children basic and advanced skills to prepare them for primary school.
At the Board’s request, District officials looked into the impact of delaying the construction and reported that a delay of one month would result in additional costs between $32,000-$40,000 to the project. The contractor would be doing some work on the site, but Mini Einstein would be able to stay. The Sciaccas would be receptive to an extra month at Woodway Elementary, but there appeared to be little interest among Board Members to the option.
Samantha Sciacca said she didn’t think the Board would go for the one month delay and she is assuming they will have to leave on June 9.
Board Members expressed appreciation for the work that the staff at Mini Einstein is doing for the community and acknowledged that decision was difficult.
“I’m really torn and I still am,” Board Member Gary Noble said.
He described the situation as a combination of a fairness issue, an expectation issue and a financial issue all merged into one. Noble noted that the recapture clause is there for a reason and the reason in this instance is that construction costs are accelerating at a non-anticipated rate.
“It doesn’t make the decision any easier,” Noble said. “I think it’s unfair. … It’s a rotten decision for a lot of people and I’m sorry about that.”
Board President Diana White praised Mini Einstein as being a well-run organization.
“You are doing great things for the community,” she said.
White, however, said that the Lynndale community has been waiting for a new school since the early 2000s. Currently, students each lunch in their classrooms rather than a cafeteria and the roof has experienced numerous leaks.
“Our priorities are to these Lynndale kids, the Lynnwood community and to our taxpayers,” White said. “This really stinks. It really does. We’re not landlords. We’re educators and we need to give these kids in our community at Lynndale Elementary the best chance we can give them.”
Board Member Ann McMurray said, “Clearly you’re providing an amazing service to a portion of our community and our kids and our families and we thank you for that.”
The Sciaccas still are looking for a new location. They are hoping to be able to stay open and not have to close. But it takes time to meet all of the licensing requirements, Samantha Sciacca said.
“I want to stay open. I don’t know how yet,” she said. “If we have to shut our doors for a little bit, it’s unfortunate. It was a decision thrown to us. It’s unexpected.”
Mini Einstein has set up a Go-Fund me account to help with financial costs of relocating at a new facility. There is a link at www.minieinsteinslearningcenter.com.
– By David Pan