By Carol Tannenhauser
The Mandell School will close its UWS K-8 program after the 2016 – 2017 school year, the school told parents last week. The facility at 795 Columbus Avenue near 98th street will then be leased by another K-8 private school – BASIS Independent Manhattan – which will open its doors in the fall of 2017. The decision to close Mandell’s K-8 program was made by the Rocket Group, which purchased the Mandell school system three years ago from the Mandell family.
The school was running a consistent deficit, its leaders told parents in a letter. Mandell “has succeeded in delivering a superb education to hundreds of children. Regrettably the K-8 school revenue have never come close to covering the costs of providing that education.”
A spokesman for Rocket stressed that the deal would not include or in any way affect the three Mandell preschools, two of which are on the UWS. (The original was founded by Max Mandell in a brownstone on West 94th street in 1939, moving to Lincoln Square in 2012.) The preschools are “strong and healthy,” the spokesman said, not at all troubled financially as was the K-8 program, which was the reason for Rocket’s decision to close it.
Parents learned of these happenings haphazardly. BASIS sent out a press release several days before parents were officially notified by Mandell via email, by which time the rumor mills were grinding and stress levels soaring. Rocket expressed regret at the way parents learned the news, saying that they had been waiting to “nail down the details” of a plan that would ensure that Mandell’s K-8 program would remain open for one more year, giving families enough time to make decisions and arrangements. The plan also states that Mandell students will be given “priority consideration” when applying for admission to BASIS Independent Manhattan, as will Mandell faculty and administrators applying for jobs.
BASIS Independent is a for-profit educational provider, with successful schools in Silicon Valley and Brooklyn. The school says it has “a distinct academic program blending the rigorous standards and foundational disciplinary study of the best European and Asian education with the ingenuity and creativity of the finest, most innovative American education.”
The school says it is challenging the “status quo” for private schools.
“Our expansion is evidence of the demand for a new status quo of independent school education. Urban dwellers are truly evaluating what their tuition dollars are doing for them. They’re seeking a program rooted in innovation, high expectations, and transparency, not to mention a lower price point and no pressure to fundraise.”
The spokesman said Mandell faculty and administrators are committed to staying for one more year. The email sent to parents urged them to express their commitment to stay – the lease agreement requires that a substantial majority do – by getting their tuition payments in on time. So far, 198 of the 221 families have contractually committed to next year, with another 20 in the final process.