Preschools, like Puddletown, often looking for a home
Several friends in my neighborhood have children at Puddletown School; one of the teachers there came to dinner at my house a few weeks ago as part of the Village Building Convergence. Through them, I know it to be a jewel of a Montessori school. Like many preschools, it's been shuttled from church to used-to-be-a-church to senior center through its life, never quite comfortable and permanent. I, too, have worked to find a space for a child's playspace, and I empathize with the community's struggle. I so wish it was easier to find spaces for preschools, who need safe, clean ground floor locations; several rooms; close and easy access to bathrooms; and a nearby outdoor space for active play.
Even through the economy's downturn, though, the sort of real estate appropriate for preschools is expensive and often requires difficult upgrades. Preschools operating in a home's large daylight basement, or ground floor, have it easier, as they need not rely on a landlord's good graces; they do require special approval and licensing, however, which takes precious time.
In this case, as seems to be the concern so frequently, Puddletown is losing its lease because its landlord, the Holgate Center at SE 32nd and Holgate, is using the space for other things. Now, with new families signed up for fall and the older children eager to get back to their teachers, the school is adrift without options. Do you have ideas? Has your preschool been through a similar upheaval? What advice do you have for these families?
Below is the email I received from a neighbor.
The news came just days ago. Puddletown School will need to move to a new location by September 1st.Families and faculty are reeling. Two months to locate an appropriate space and get it ready for Puddletown's 45 children? The task is enormous. Director Andrea Ludlow and helpers are scouring the city, contacting Portland Public Schools, Oregon Montessori Association, local churches, commercial real estate agents, and other organizations that may have space for Puddletown. In order to meet codes, the school will need a site that has already been in use as a school, church, or public gathering space -- there simply isn't time to make the necessary modifications and get them approved by the city otherwise. The search committee has hired a real estate broker to help locate a suitable space, but Puddletown needs the whole community's help to find a new home in such a limited time frame. Both leasing or buying a space are possibilities, as is moving into a temporary space for one school year before moving to a more desirable permanent space if necessary.
1. 2000-3000 square feet, capable of containing two classrooms (partitions can be built if needed.)
2. Outdoor space for the children to play in.
3. Ground floor space if possible, as codes for stairways and exits may present issues on an upper floor.
4. Proximity to Puddletown's current location [in the Reed College / Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood], to allow families who bike or walk to continue to do so.
When an appropriate space is located, the school will also need the help of a lawyer, architect, and a structural engineer. If you do have ideas specific to Puddletown's dilemma, please email e-mail Director Andrea Ludlow at firstname.lastname@example.org