The families and teachers at Clockwork Learning Center in West Orange are hoping for a Christmas Miracle.
Parents, students and teachers recently were told the school would have to close its doors on Jan. 31 when Morristown-based Hampshire Real Estate Company will evict them.
Parents of the 70 families who send their children to the school are now scrambling to figure out where to send their kids for the remainder of the year. Many are worried they won’t find open seats for their children at other schools. Some are considering hiring nannies while others may now have to stay home with their children, at least until they can make suitable and affordable arrangements.
The director of the school, Shanda Babbitt, of Long Valley, has even called the realty company and offered to take over the lease from David H. Lyme, owner of the school and four other New Jersey-based Clockwork Learning Centers — at least through June. Her requests have been ignored.
“I am trying to keep everyone’s spirits up and am doing everything I can to keep all of our families and staff members here,” says Babbitt, “I am hoping for a miracle!”
Parents were notified last Monday of the situation and are behind Babbitt and her quest to take over the building’s lease.
School officials say they are even open to going month to month on a lease while having the building, located at 627 Mount Pleasant Ave., shown to prospective buyers before and after school hours.
Calls placed by Patch to Hampshire Real Estate Company were unanswered.
The closing has left many school employees, including Trisha Gerard of Belleville, who has taught there for 13 years, asking, “Why are they doing this in January?”
“Why can’t they at least wait until June?” Gerard said. “We have infants who are finally just adapting to being away from their parents, and to their new teachers and kindergarteners who now won’t be graduating from here at the end of the year. This is so disruptive.”
Parents Rudy and Marie Altenor of West Orange, who have two young children attending the school, are very upset.
“We love the school and picked it for its curriculum, amenities, location, and pricing, as well as for its amazing teachers, who treat our children like they would treat their own,” said Rudy Altenor.
“We even recommended the school to my nephew and now need to make new arrangements for all three children,” he added.
Rose Registry of West Orange said her young son is thriving at the school and, “the community needs this school.”
“I hope someone can help us save the school,” she said.