Cross and Crown School in Chamblee closed after 40 years on May 25 leaving a heartbroken community.
The Cross and Crown School board sent a letter to parents on May 9 informing them that this year’s last day of school would be the final day ever.
The school’s closing came as a result of a dispute with the school’s landlord, Cross and Crown Lutheran Church.
“We’re a small community,” said Steven D. Mayo, the school’s principal. “People come in as strangers and leave as friends. Now it’s being destroyed.”
The church decided last fall to raise rent payments, an added expense that Mayo said the school could not hope to raise.
“The facility is in bad need of repair,” Mayo said. “We already pay for janitorial care, lawn care, and phone and internet, among other things. Asking us to pay a commercial rate for that facility was absurd.”
“The dispute between the parties is a matter of public record in numerous court filings and the church has no public comment on that dispute,” the attorney representing Cross and Crown Lutheran Church said in a public statement.
The school began in 1967 as a “mother’s morning out” day care program that quickly grew into something more. By 1998, Cross and Crown School served children from two years old to those in fourth grade, and the church requested that the school become a separate entity. The school still leased facilities from the church, but it became a non-profit, according to Mayo.
“We fill a specific but necessary niche in the area,” Mayo said. “Our school serves middle class families who can’t afford the tuition of other private schools.”
The school was unable to afford last fall’s rent increase, and the church served the school with an eviction notice on Dec. 23, according to Mayo.
“I received an email that said something to the effect of: ‘There was a dispossessory notice put in your office earlier this week. Have a blessed holiday season’,” Mayo said.
It was not a merry Christmas, especially considering that under normal eviction procedures, the school would have 30 days to vacate the premises.
“They would have had kids walking out the doors of the school for good in the middle of January,” Mayo said. “It would have been horrible.”
Cross and Cross School went to court to ask for an extension, which a magistrate judge granted, Mayo said. The judge gave the school until the end of the school year to move or find enough money to remain open.
The school began a capital campaign to raise enough money to find new premises, but all efforts to find sufficient funding failed.
In its May 9 closing announcement, the school board told parents that because of the campaign’s failure and dwindling enrollment for next year, the board “simply is not financially equipped to move, carry on in costly litigation, or keep the school open next year in the current location.”
“Our only option was to close our doors,” said Mayo.
The church’s attorney said in his statement that the church was exploring new options for the space formerly occupied by the school, and that the space would continue to serve the community.
Mayo said Cross and Crown School is helping families to smooth the transition of its students to new schools by providing parents with transcripts and letters of recommendation.
“In the end, everyone suffers,” Mayo said. “There are a lot of disappointed parents and staff and faculty, but also a lot of heartbroken kids. We’re one big extended family that has been completely destroyed.”