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Parents left in the lurch after city closes Brooklyn preschool

Linden Tree Preschool’s original home, Christ Church in Cobble Hill, was hit by lightening in 2012. Photo: Diocese of Long Island

DOH: Linden Tree Preschool had no permit

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Parents say they’re taking action against the owners of a Brooklyn preschool after it was shut down by the Department of Health for operating without a permit.

The Linden Tree Preschool was operating out of a temporary facility in the basement at Sacred Heart-St. Steven church in Carroll Gardens after a lightning strike tore apart the bell tower at their original home, Christ Church in Cobble Hill.

Michelle Mannix, the owner of Ted & Honey cafe in Cobble Hill whose son Jackson attended Linden Tree three days a week, said the school’s operators have left parents high and dry.

“We’ve received no response from the church from our emails and letters, “ Mannix told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday. “After the Department of Health shut them down, we learned they had not had a permit for years, even at Christ Church.”

“For many parents, it’s a real financial and logistical hardship. They have full-time jobs. Some parents send two kids there every day and now they have no childcare,” she said. “We spend $12,000 to send kids to school three days a week for three hours. We’re talking to lawyers.”

Parents have formed a group called The Linden Tree Concerned Parents Committee asking for the return of 25 percent of their tuition and the donation of classroom supplies to Linden School’s principal Susan Kuhlmann and her colleague Jennifer DeLuna, who are working to form their own preschool, Building Bridges.

“Parents are rightly upset,” Kuhlmann told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday. “Christ Church had been telling parents there was a good chance to get back into the building.”

Kuhlmann said the Department of Health paid a visit to the school last Thursday and “shockingly informed the staff they were there to investigate the school for not having a license.”

Kuhlmann said that she had been “shown paperwork showing we were compliant,” and that Father Ronald Lau, Head of School, and the Human resources/ Office Manager were responsible for keeping the documentation current.

“We were flabbergasted, devastated and confused,” she said. “Christ Church held a meeting with parents on Saturday. They have as yet to reach out to the staff. We’ve been finding out from the parents what’s happening.”

Kuhlmann said that she and DeLuna have been looking “at various properties” in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens and getting their own certification from city authorities. “On average it takes from three to six months,” she said. “The Certificate of Occupancy has to be compliant with a day care facility.”

At a petition signed by 100 supporters on Change.org, one parent commented, “We have been extremely dismayed by the lack of concern shown by Christ Church toward Linden Tree's students and staff.”

Another wrote, “As Annabelle's … grandparents we would expect the best education for her. As a former teacher it seems that this is being greatly hindered by the lack of care, interest and concern by Christ Church.”

Mannix said that she put together a meeting on Monday with parents at Ted & Honey to plan the next steps, including organizing activities to keep the kids together.

“As a mom, it’s very difficult,” Mannix added. “[Jackson] has missed six weeks of preschool. It’s not going to make or break his life, but we have to let the kids know it’s done. They get into a routine -- they’ve been talking about Grandparents Day, graduation – their whole structure gets yanked out.”

Even worse, parents were kept in the dark until it was too late to sign up for other programs for next September – and public preschool options in the neighborhood are scarce.  “There isn’t a public option, unfortunately. You can’t really get into P.S. 29 unless a sibling goes there.

“The church has been embarrassingly bad about information and follow through, and the way they treated the operators was just bad,” she added.

“There is a silver lining, however” Mannix said. “ One good thing came out of this. There’s been a lot of natural coming together of the 90-plus parents. We’re forming a group to keep the kids together and busy. We’re trying t organize events and playgroups -- We got together in Cobble Hill Park yesterday with the teachers and had a story time. We had a pizza party, we’re taking a school picture, and maybe there’ll be a graduation.”

Father Ronald Lau, Head of School, did not return calls to this paper on Tuesday. The National Association of Episcopal Schools, of which Linden Tree was a member, said they had no comment.

May 14, 2013 - 5:42pm


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