After appeals from parents and an administrator, Sausalito Marin City school district administrators agreed to give Horizon Community School a one-year extension to rent classrooms on the Marin City campus.
Trustees voted 4-1 on Wednesday, with Trustee Yasmine McGrane opposing, to grant the extension. McGrane said she would have preferred advance notice to give the council more time to consider other options, such as helping the nursery school find another location.
McGrane said she doesn’t want to have to ask the preschool to leave if the district receives extra money mid-year for arts and music or other enrichment programs and needs of class space.
“I don’t want to be in this situation where 40 students won’t have a place to go,” she said.
Superintendent Itoco Garcia said the lease extension includes a “60-day” clause allowing either party to terminate the lease at any time if circumstances change. He said the district, at the same time, did not want to move the preschool.
“They are a valued community partner in the preK space and have the largest number of Marin City students in preK of any current preK program,” Garcia wrote in the staff report.
Garcia said he was advised by legal counsel that it would be best to review all preschool leases in the district together. Two other preschool leases were also on the agenda Wednesday: Robin’s Nest, which is housed on the district’s elementary school campus in Sausalito, and Community Action Marin, which operates a Head Start program on the college campus.
Stevie Lee, executive director of Horizon Community School, said he and Garcia began talks about ending the lease earlier this year, but other pressing issues arose.
Lee said the one-year lease extension was optimal for not having to move students, staff and classrooms in the middle of the school year.
“We serve families in Marin City,” Lee said. “Our children are your children.”
Horizon Community School, established in 2017 as a branch of the Mill Valley-based Marin Horizon School, occupies three classrooms in portable buildings at the back of the district college campus in Marin City. Of the 40 students ages 2 to 4, 37 are district residents and potential future students for the district school, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy.
The preschool is privately owned, but it receives a number of grants and donations, Lee said.
“We provide a key service to Marin,” Lee said. “It was created because of the need for early childhood education.”
Preschool mom Kayla Thomas said if the district were to terminate the lease, it would be a big test.
“There’s no place to go in Marin City,” she said. “Forty students do not need to be moved.”
Shamila Logan, a mother of a 4-year-old son who has attended Horizon Community School since the age of 2, said the school has helped her a lot to stabilize her life. Her son has a speech problem and is in therapy in the morning.
“He thinks it’s a safe place to go,” she said, referring to Horizon.
According to Lee, Horizon is building a new classroom building on the campus of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Marin City. However, construction has been delayed and Lee does not expect the new site to be ready until fall 2023, he said.
Also Wednesday, administrators approved the continuation of a month-to-month lease with Robin’s Nest, a private, for-profit preschool on the Sausalito campus on Nevada Street.
The lease provides 30 days notice of termination in the event the Sausalito Preschool has to relocate due to Measure P bond construction on the elementary school campus, according to the staff report.
Garcia said neither the district nor Robin’s Nest had a copy of the rental agreement on file. This problem will be solved now, he said.
“It’s best to have a rental agreement with signatures from both parties,” he said.
Additionally, trustees voted to give 60 days’ notice to terminate the lease with Community Action Marin, which has about eight students in its Head Start program in a classroom in the portable buildings at the back of the college on the Marin City campus.
Garcia said the termination “would have the least impact on our community” of the preschools being considered on Wednesday. Only one of the eight students lives in Marin City, and one of the other student’s parents works in Marin City, he said in the staff report.