Antioch School Board hears concerns about Kids’ Club preschool losing lease, relocating

By John Crowder

Antioch residents shared their concerns about a lease between the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) and Kids’ Club Preschool at the Wednesday, April 15, 2015, regular meeting of the Antioch School Board.

Ariana Sanchez was the first member of the public to address the board about Kids’ Club. In a moving statement, she credited the preschool with allowing her the opportunity to graduate from high school, since she was able to have her daughter in the program. “Kids’ Club holds a very special place for me,” she said. “Thanks to them, I am where I am today, and my daughter is, too.”

Other Antioch residents also came forward to speak about the preschool, with one parent presenting a stack of, “over 700 letters” in support of Kids’ Club. Calling the program, “one of the most successful preschools,” he asked the board, “Please, renew Kids’ Club’s lease.”

Mark Mokski, Executive Director of Kids’ Club Preschool, and the last member of the public to speak on the matter, first told the board about Kids’ Club being founded by an AUSD administrator and board members. He then stated he was not asking for a renewal of the lease, but help in raising “$100,000 to $200,000” to renovate one of a number of buildings he said he had, with the assistance of a real estate broker, which Mokski claims able to house the program, going forward.

The fate of the preschool has been the subject of some debate recently, both at public meetings, in a letter to the editor, and in an AUSD statement posted on their website. Kids’ Club is currently located at the former Bidwell Elementary School site, 800 Gary Avenue in Antioch.

In a letter written by Mokski and Sara Octaviano, Chairperson, Parent Advisory Committee for Kids’ Club Preschool, and posted on another news website on March 31, 2015, several statements are made which appear to make AUSD staff seem capricious and unconcerned about the preschool.

In the first paragraph, they state, “Kids’ Club Preschool…will be closing permanently in June 2015.” In the second paragraph they state, “The closure is due to the loss of the lease with Antioch Unified School District.” Later, they state, “AUSD is currently unwilling to renegotiate or continue with the lease.” Then, the letter states, “Why does a district with reduced enrollment need the space occupied by the preschool?” and “AUSD administration has not negotiated on the current space, nor have they presented viable options for alternative locations on district property.”

AUSD has a response posted on their website. The response states that, Kids’ Club, “has no relationship with the District other than leasing facilities from the District,” and “Kids’ Club is not a School District program and is not associated with the District.” It goes on to explain that, “As a result of the District’s growing need for special education, the District found it necessary to expand its current special education programs at Bidwell.” The statement then says that District personnel informed Kids’ Club that it did not intend to renew the lease in May, 2014, that they have attempted to assist Kids’ Club to identify alternative space, and that, although, “the District’s primary obligation is to provide an education to its students and plans to do so by utilizing the Bidwell property,” it has, and “is prepared to continue to assist Kids’ Club to find alternate space.”

Through a public records request, Antioch Herald staff obtained a copy of the lease agreement between AUSD and Kids’ Club, and a letter acknowledging the Bidwell facility would no longer be available for Kids’ Club at the end of this school year.

The Lease Agreement, dated August 1, 2012, allows Kids’ Club the use of the Bidwell facility for two years, the original lease expiring on July 31, 2014, but with a one-year option to renew. Further in the agreement, it states, “AUSD may terminate this Lease upon sixty (60) days’ written notice in the event that AUSD determines…the Premises are needed by AUSD for carrying out its primary mission of educating school children.”

The accompanying letter, sent from Kids’ Club to AUSD, signed by Mokski and dated May 22, 2014, states in part, “Kids’ Club Preschool acknowledges, based upon a verbal conversation on May 20, 2014 that the leased space will no longer be available after next year.”

The next Antioch School Board meeting will be held on May 13, 2015. Meetings are held at the AUSD School Services Building, located at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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