Newly transitioned Berkeley school seeks more students to stay open

Michelle Kim/Staff

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Update: After Wednesday, it was determined that the Academy would remain open as a K-5, instead of K-8, school.

A private school in Berkeley transitioned last week into a nonprofit to prevent its imminent closure and now needs to have nearly a dozen more students enrolled by Wednesday in order to keep its doors open.

The Academy, located on Benvenue Avenue between College and Telegraph avenues, needs to enroll 11 more students by noon Wednesday to get the funds needed to stay open for the coming school year. Parents of students at the school joined together and transformed it into a nonprofit after its owners informed them that the doors would be closing.

Founded by Marshall H. Lombardo, a UC Berkeley alumnus, in 1969, the Academy was previously operated as a for-profit K-8 school by the Lombardo family. The Lombardos decided to close down the Academy because of low enrollment rates, according to Dana Weld, the head of school.

After hearing about the decision to close the Academy on July 8, concerned parents met the next day to discuss solutions and transitioned the school into a nonprofit Thursday, according to Kristene Cristobal, a parent. They also kicked off a crowdfunding campaign, seeking to raise $150,000 for financial aid and scholarships.

“We just quickly started calling around to each other and brainstorming ideas of what we could do to save the school that evening,” Cristobal said. “There were small groups of parents all over the East Bay sharing tissues and brainstorming.”

In the long term, they will also elect a body of parents, teachers and community members to govern the school. So far, an unfinalized board exists, consisting of Cristobal and two other parents. Weld said all of the teachers are on board with returning if the school starts next month.

According to Amelia Miazad, a parent and board member, there are usually between 55 and 70 students enrolled at the Academy. The school teaches one year above grade level, Weld said, but it is not specifically designated for gifted children. Tuition ranges from $18,500 to $20,500.

Miazad said that the overwhelming majority of private schools are nonprofits and that there was no opposition to the change among parents.

“The parents were hungry for change, the teachers were hungry for change,” Miazad said. “This is a very fruitful opportunity to build upon 45 years of foundation but take the best of those 45 years and build the future.”

Cristobal, who was optimistic about the school remaining open, said the parents of at least 11 Academy students are still undecided about re-enrolling their children for the upcoming school year. Currently 42 are enrolled, according to Weld.

“We’re feeling really confident that we’re going to get that number by tomorrow,” Weld said Tuesday. “If we don’t, there will be no more Academy.”

Contact Angel Grace Jennings at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @angeljenningss.