BASIS Independent, an owner of liberal arts schools across the country, including one in Brooklyn, will be taking over the Mandell School’s K-8 program on 795 Columbus Ave. starting in the fall of 2017.
The Mandell School has run a pre-k program in the neighborhood since 1939. The K-8 school opened in 2008 and -- despite surging emrollment in most private schools across the city -- Mandell’s K-8 program “has always struggled,” said school spokesman James Fuller, with a deficit reaching $2 million.
While the Mandell School’s pre-K programs have been running for many years, and along with their other locations (one of which is in Lincoln Square) remain in operation, the K-8 program was unable to sustain itself. The decision to close down the program comes after a tumultuous three years for the school, including a sale to Rocket Group in 2013 and the departure of the former head of the school, Gabriella Rowe, the following year.
BASIS was formed in Tuscon in 1998, before expanding in the following years to three more school across the country, as well as eighteen additional charter schools. The schools all have reputations for being some of the most elite in the country, with the Washington Post giving BASIS schools three spots in the top 5 list of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools” earlier this year.
Tuition at BASIS is lower than at other private schools in the city. In Brooklyn, for instance, the BASIS tuition is $23,500, compared to $35,800 for a school such as Brooklyn Friends.
Rowe, who was part of the Mandell family, had spearheaded the K-8 expansion, as well as the opening of other locations and the Rocket Group sale. While BASIS is advertising its plans to take over the school in 2017, the Rocket Group has committed to funding the school for its remaining year before BASIS takes over, as well as helping the families with exmissions from the school.
Mandell will be working with NYSAIS (the New York State Association of Independent Schools) to help parents of students stranded in the transition. Additionally, a spokesperson for the Mandell School explained that students who were in the Mandell’s K-8 program would get “priority” consideration for acceptance for both students and teacher positions at BASIS Independent.
Parents of the school said they were shocked, and had “no idea” the school was about to close.
Mandell parent Michael O’Neil said he he needs to find a new school home for his second grade son, Lewis, and will consider “everything... every school”.
Private or public?
“Any school I can afford” he quipped.