by TaLeiza Calloway
150. That is the number of students who attend Little Saints Academy in St. Joseph.
32. That is about the number of staff members who work at the child-care center.
2-1/2. That is the number of years the child-are center has been housed in the old Kennedy school in St. Joseph. The center’s three-year lease expires in October, and the St. Cloud School District is not interested in renewing it, Amy Bonfig told parents recently.
Bonfig, owner and director of Little Saints Academy, said she was notified by letter last month that the district does not plan to renew her three-year lease.
“This is a great use for the space,” Bonfig said. “We’ve made it our own.”
The district’s lack of interest in renewing the lease stems from planning to address capacity issues of the current Kennedy Community School.
Kevin Januszewski, executive director of business services for St. Cloud School District 742, said using the space to house excess students has always been the plan.
Because the existing Kennedy Community School is getting almost full, the district anticipates needing that space during the 2013-14 or 2014-15 school years. A grade level could move into the space or even the preschool. The space would essentially be an extension of the existing Kennedy.
“(The idea) has always been there since we built the new Kennedy,” Januszewski said. “You never know how fast they’ll fill up.”
It is the only space in St. Joseph the district owns that could serve its future space needs. Looking elsewhere for space or to lease another space is not an option, he said.
“That’s not our business to look for space,” he said. “We’re in the business of educating kids and planning space for them.”
The district talked about the lease at a finance committee meeting in March. Januszewski said the district has talked to Bonfig about extending the lease for six months but a final decision has not been made.
The board does not have to vote on the expiration of the lease but could act on an extension or renewal, he said.
As for response from the community, Januszewski said the district hasn’t heard from parents.
“It’s not really a political thing,” he said. “It’s a business decision.”
Bonfig said she is currently working on a new lease proposal. Some parents have written letters of support and also plan to attend future school board meetings to express concerns about the board’s decision.
One of the most upsetting things for Bonfig is that no one from the school board has ever visited Little Saints Academy. While some members have offered to come, no one has shown up.
“They haven’t even come once to see what we do here,” Bonfig said.
Little Saints Academy provides after-school care and a summer camp for children ranging from 6 weeks old to 12 years old. Its mission is educating children through music and the arts.
It opened a second location in the vacated Wilson Elementary School called Little Saints Academy II (St. Cloud campus) earlier this year. Bonfig has a five-year lease with District 742 for the St. Cloud location.
She occupies about 5,025 square feet of space on the second and third floors of the Wilson school building.
Author: TaLeiza Calloway
TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.