By Mary Spicer
Crawford Central School Board moved a step closer to filling the former East End Elementary School on Walnut Street with education-based tenants during its monthly meeting Monday night. By a vote of 7-0 with David Miller and Rob Smith absent, the board approved a lease agreement with the Family and Community Christian Association of Meadville, doing business as Twin Creeks Head Start, for a portion of the building.
According to the lease, Twin Creeks, whose principal place of business is 996 S. Main St., Meadville, will use the building for “early childhood educational purposes, specifically for the instruction of preschool students ages 3 and 4, by providing comprehensive educational, health, nutrition and social services, including all ancillary and incidental operations associated herewith.”
As for exactly how that will work, no one from either FCCA or Twin Creeks was available for comment Monday.
The lease covers a total of 4,178 square feet, which includes two offices and kitchen on the first floor and five classrooms on the second floor — a total of 23 percent of the building’s 17,837 square feet of classroom space. In addition, Twin Creeks will have nonexclusive rights to use hallway, bathroom, gym, stage, playground and cafeteria space as designated by the school district and a total of five parking spaces in the building’s parking lot.
The five-year lease will begin July 1, 2013; rent, which will be payable monthly, will total $15,600 per year. A proportional share of the building’s electricity, natural gas, sewer, water and janitorial/custodial services will be paid separately to the district; other services or utilities will be at Twin Creeks’ expense.
FCCA’s website describes Head Start as a federal early childhood education program providing comprehensive educational, health, nutrition and social services to preschool children ages 3 and 4. According to federal regulations, at least 90 percent of the children served are from “low income” families as determined by income guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which funds the program.
For more than 20 years, the federal grant funding Twin Creeks Head Start has been held and managed by FCCA; until 2009, when it changed its name and ended its regional and national affiliation, the organization was known as YWCA of Meadville.
Putting the whole building to work
The district has already entered into leases with the Creating Landscapes Learning Center and Crawford County READ, both based in Meadville, for additional space in the building.
The Learning Center will occupy a four-classroom suite on the building’s second floor, while the READ program will occupy a portion of the first floor on the building’s Lafayette Street side.
According to Superintendent Charlie Heller, the three leases now in place will leave just enough unrented space in the building to house one more possible tenant — the school district itself.
In July, the Sharon-based firm of HHSDR Architects/Engineers is expected to present the results of a feasibility study designed to investigate the suitability of the former East End to serve as the district’s administrative offices. Administrators are currently housed in the district’s Instructional Support Center on Mercer Pike in Vernon Township.
One of HHSDR’s tasks, according to Heller, is to determine whether locating the administrative offices in the building will be a use acceptable to Pennsylvania Department of Education, which is in the process of determining whether the structure will continue to receive reimbursement for approximately a third of the cost of recent renovations.
“It’s well worth the investment to complete the study,” Heller told the Tribune shortly after the READ lease was approved by the school board earlier this month. “Based on the study, we will know whether we can get reimbursement back from the state. The district is spending $8,000 on a study attempting to recoup $2.5 million.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.