Two preschools on Navy property closing in weeks - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Two preschools on Navy properties closing in weeks

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St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool
St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool
Courtesy: Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor Courtesy: Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor
Courtesy: Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor Courtesy: Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Parents of students enrolled in two different preschools on Navy Region Hawai'i properties are scrambling to find a new place to send their children after word they will be closing in a matter of weeks. 

"May 31st they said their doors are closed.  As parents we're all saying, 'well, what can we do to help?  Do you need to raise tuition?' and they just said right now the doors will be closed," Gina Lewis, a St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool parent.  Her son will be graduating this year, but she intended for her 3-year-old daughter to enroll there.

"I'm just kind of waiting for call backs and filling out application forms and keeping my fingers crossed," explained Rita Wilcox, a St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool parent.  Her daughter is four, but because her birthday is in November, she's not eligible for Kindergarten this fall. 

St. George Episcopal Preschool has been leasing land from the Navy for decades, but parents learned Tuesday -- the church was told they'd need to buy it, if they wanted to stay open. 

"I wish that the Navy would have come up with another alternative, because its their own people that they're affecting by this decision.  It's extremely frustrating that they waited until this late in the game to say, by the way, figure something else out," said Megan Newman, a St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool parent.

Navy Region Hawai'i provided Hawaii News Now the following statement: "St. George's Church is located on Navy property, but in a publicly accessible area near ASSETS School.  On November 7, 2013, the Episcopal Church in Hawaii was given the opportunity to purchase this property from the Navy pursuant to special legislation.  The church has until May 6, 2014 to accept the offer and two years after any acceptance to actually complete a purchase of the property.  The Episcopal Church in Hawaii has not responded as of March 12, 2014 to the Navy's offer."

St. George's Episcopal Church leaders say they notified parents when it was clear they'd be unable to raise the $2 million needed.

"It's hard for us knowing that we've been able to have a positive impact with the military community here with the preschool that we've offered," said Father Paul Klitzke, Vicar of St. George's Episcopal Church & Preschool.

But St. George's Episcopal Preschool isn't the only one closing, just down the road the Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor is also shutting down.

"The Montessori preschool has been there since 1986.  They were invited to this base by the then Commanding Officer Admiral Frank Boyle and that was because the parents needed a high-quality preschool.  They needed it to be affordable and they needed it to be close to the military base.  Admiral Boyle stated that if they put it on this base that they would be able to do rent-free which would make it affordable for military families," explained Mai Lan Isler, a Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor parent.

Parents say the preschool was informed last fall their rent-free arrangement was coming to an end.  They say school officials explained they can't come up with the estimated $55,000 in maintenance and utilities, plus an additional $17,000 to cover a "true market value" appraisal fee to determine their rental amount. 

"In accordance with current Navy policy, Non-Federal Entities (NFE) such as Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor are required to pay for fees, expenses, and rent at fair market value in connection with their desired use of Navy real property.  MCPH's current license agreement will expire on June 30, 2014, and MCPH was provided advance notice of this policy on Sept. 9, 2013.  In order to enter a new agreement with the Navy, MCPH (as with other NFEs) is required to comply with policy,"  Navy officials wrote in a statement provided to Hawaii News Now.

"Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor leaders and teachers have provided dedicated service to families over many years operating on Navy property (at Makalapa Compound on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam).  We understand this is a significant change in operating costs to the Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor.  However, since the school has indicated that it will not be able to pay certain costs, the Navy is required to take steps pursuant to the SECNAV Instruction," wrote Navy officials. 

Parents are hoping for a miracle, or a change of heart, before doors close at the end of June. 

"There is no replacement for a quality education and there is no replacement for the love and family that the Montessori provides.  It truly is about doing the best you can for all the kids and not about making a profit and we just would like to continue," said Tanya Hertel, a Montessori Center of Pearl Harbor parent.

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