School Plans Weekend Open House

DSC_0147Meredith Hoffman Jon Taylor, director of the World Class Learning Academy, said the school has postponed its opening to next fall to finish renovations to its home in the old La Salle Academy building on Second Street.

World Class Learning Academy, a private primary school, will hold its first open houses this Saturday and Sunday to recruit students for next fall.

Located in the La Salle Academy’s old Second Street building between First and Second Avenues, the new school pushed back its initial 2010 start date to September 2011 to finish renovating and to enroll more children.

“There’s a certain transparency about for-profit schools and parents are aware of that,” said Jon Taylor, the school’s director. “It’s about reinvestment and getting value for your money.”

He admitted this year is a “loss-making” year, but the school’s investor Sovereign Capital trusts its success based on the track record of other schools in the World Class Learning Group. The schools focus on global education, and holistic and personalized learning.

Torun Kirk was disappointed to learn of the school’s postponed opening, but plans to send her 4-year-old daughter Sophie to kindergarten there next year.

“I wanted an international school, a private school, and I thought this was tailor-made for our family,” said Ms. Kirk, a native of Denmark who’s lived in SoHo since she moved to the United States 6 months ago.

The first two floors have airy halls and bright new classrooms, but there is work yet to be done: The musty top two floors have peeling paint, faded red stairs, signs for the Catholic “Brothers’ Residence” and other ghosts of the La Salle Academy. Last year 350 high school boys bounded down those halls, and now they are empty, awaiting 130 young students in the school year to come.

“I think it’s sad in a way that they’ve had to move out, and I think they will be awestruck to see it now,” said Mr. Taylor, who has directed international schools in Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Istanbul and Dubai. “The building was very rundown and unloved.” He said the second phase of renovation, including the top two floors, a roof garden, and an elevator, will begin in January.

DSC_0154Meredith HoffmanAlthough the World Class Academy is paying for the renovations, La Salle Academy still owns the building. La Salle students and teachers now share a building with St. George’s School on Sixth Street.

World Class Academy is paying for the renovation, but La Salle Academy still owns the building and is leasing it because of financial difficulties. The students and teachers of La Salle now share a building with St. George’s School over on Sixth Street.

“I didn’t know they weren’t having students this year until a few weeks ago, when Jon mentioned it to me in passing,” said Bill Hamilton, La Salle’s President. “I’m his landlord and they can do what they want — but there’s definitely a nostalgia to leaving the building.”

Mr. Hamilton said La Salle, serving about 75 percent of its students with financial aid or complete tuition wavers, needed a way to keep afloat financially.

“We wanted to lease the building to someone with a similar mission — with an educational thrust,” said Mr. Hamilton.

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