LOWELL -- After failing to move into a permanent location on Middlesex Street last fall, the Lowell Collegiate Charter School will again have to postpone its move there this fall as sale negotiations for the site have stalled and they've run out of time for construction.
The charter school, operated by SABIS Educational Systems, plans to renew its lease for another year at the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church on Father John Sarantos Way, The Sun has learned.
The school will settle for another year there because construction at the former Bradford Industries warehouse site will not be complete by the beginning of the school year. That site, 1857 Middlesex St., in the Highlands section of Lowell, is slated to be the eventual permanent home of the school.
"The Lowell Collegiate board of trustees and its representatives are in the midst of facility negotiations and it would not be appropriate to comment at this time," according to a statement from Jose Afonso, SABIS Educational Systems' director of business development. "As soon as we're able to disclose additional information, we will do so."
The Lowell Collegiate Charter School initially planned to move to the permanent Middlesex Street site for the 2013/2014 school year. However, those plans were stalled a year ago because of delays in approvals from the city, Afonso said a year ago.
Planning Board members delayed voting on the project to seek more information about the effect the school would have on traffic. Neighborhood groups opposed the project because of concern about the traffic impact on an intersection that was already rated one of the worst in the state -- Wood and Middlesex streets.
Afonso said a year ago he thought the approvals would be granted in February. The final approval came on March 4, 2013, which Afonso said wasn't enough time to construct a 45,000-square-foot building for fall 2013.
Now with sale negotiations taking longer than expected, the Lowell Collegiate Charter School will not move to Middlesex Street for the 2014/2015 school year. The charter school's board and the owners of Bradford Industries on Middlesex Street have been unable to reach an agreement on the property's cost.
The major sticking point is the difference of the sale price and assessed value of the property. According to the city's website, the Middlesex Street's building value is about $1.3 million and the total value of the property is assessed at around $1.8 million. The sale price has not been disclosed, but it's "enough of a difference to continue negotiations," according to a source.
At least one parent has been frustrated with the charter school's lack of progress on the construction project.
"With nothing moving forward for the second straight year, it makes me very uncomfortable," said Shawn Knightly, who has a daughter taking kindergarten at the school. "The certain level of unknown doesn't bode well.
"I've been tracking LCCS for years. I want it to succeed, I want it to do well for our children," he added.
The charter school's plan is to eventually become a K-12 school. Today, the school has grades K-3, and next year the school will follow that plan and become a K-4, despite staying at the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. The location on Father John Sarantos Way is able to accommodate a fourth grade, but that is the last time the charter school can add another grade in the church before students max out the space.
With the charter school renewing its lease for another year at the church, the president of the church's parish council said on Tuesday that the church is glad to be able to help the school, adding, "It's been a good relationship over the last year."
"The school settled in nicely over the last summer and fall, and we welcome the company," said Christian Zouzas, president of the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church's Parish Council. "It's been a good fit for everybody, and it doesn't affect how we run the church.
"As a church, we help out people when we can," Zouzas added. "It's not a permanent solution, but they get to educate about 275 kids, and it's worked out well for everybody."
Zouzas said the church leasing space to the school has no adverse impacts to churchgoers in terms of parking, nor does it limit their use of the church space. He said the space the school occupies is typically not used at all by the church during the week.
The school uses classrooms in an addition to the church, and has set up modular classrooms on a portion of the church's parking lot for its students.
Bradford Industries officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
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