The men who run the school gave their report to hundreds of parents Wednesday evening. It included few details, but the conclusion was clear, American International School of Utah, *would not* and *could not,* stay open much longer.
Dozens of people, most of them parents, lined up for turns at the microphone. Most of them had the same question spoken by the second in line: “I wonder if you’re able to quantify the feasibility of this school staying open until the end of the 2020 school year?”
The next two hours included mostly apologies for what the school’s executive director called the “predicament”.
Executive Director, Tais Young, led the discussion, taking the audience all the way back to the school’s beginnings.
“We have to go back to the founding of our school,” he said, “to understand our predicament.”
Young went on to explain the school started with a partnership between the school and a for-profit management company, in which the school owned a majority interest. The company provided $5 Million in capital, enough funding to get the school up and running. For the next four years, he outlined, the school has operated at a deficit.
Administrators spent most, if not all of the $5M in start-up capital, during those first two to three years. They rented a shopping mall, formerly the Galleria, for a campus, hired teachers, and assembled a school. They also applied for federal grants, which helped provide programs for special needs students. And they recruited international students, as the school’s name suggested, was the mission.
The word administrators used to describe the spending was “exorbitant.”
And then, an admission, that the school’s bookkeeping was unacceptably poor. State and federal audits showed glaring discrepancies, administrators admitted. Federal grants for special education programs were stopped, and grantors demanded their money back – at least $250,000.
“When the state looks at us,” Young told the audience, “the state and the federal government look at us and say, ‘Oh, a school is overspending by quite a bit,’ and so a few years into that they say, ‘Are you guys OK? Are you going to be able to do that?’ And the answer is maybe not.”
The school stayed open a fourth year, with the help of its partner, but seems to have hit a wall; and a decision. The chairman of the board of directors outlined the choices: close the school May 1, 2019 or try to stay open until the end of the school year. The audience was told that AISU’s landlord has agreed to grant an extension, which allows the school to pay rent at the end of May, instead of the beginning of the month.
“We can’t meet the teachers’ payroll by mid-month,” he said, “as well as our other obligations without that allowance by the landlord.”
Single mother, Autumn Spencer, told ABC4.com her daughter “…adores the kindergarten at AISU.” She fought back tears, contemplating how the school’s apparent closure will impact her family.
“I would just be scrambling,” she said. “And then I’d have to notify her daycare and let them know she changed schools suddenly. It’s going to be hard, but we can do it.”