St. Charles County's Barat Academy faces more troublesby Shane Anthony
Barat Academy got locked out of its own school Monday as part of eviction proceedings, leaving uncertainty over whether it will open for classes as scheduled next month.
The school is being evicted for not paying its rent and other contract issues.
School leaders said the school will open Aug. 31, but they don't know whether it will be on the campus along Highway 40 in St. Charles County or elsewhere.
Debby Watson, Barat's president, said the school's board still was trying to stay on the campus, but it also had made an offer on another site.
"We will be somewhere," Watson said.
Mary Sawyer, a spokeswoman for CP-SPE LLC, a company owned by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Enterprise Bank, said the company had tried to work with the school for more than a year.
"CP-SPE truly regrets that the school is unable to fulfill its financial and contractual obligations," she said in a written statement.
Barat opened its doors in 2007 as a private, independent Catholic high school. The first seniors graduated in June. The school had about 250 students at the end of the year.
Watson said CP-SPE was formed to help Premier Bank, which owned 68 percent of Barat's debt.
Enterprise Bank owned the other third. The company owned the property.
Premier failed in October, leaving CP-SPE to the FDIC and Enterprise.
Sawyer said the school's 13-month lease with the company, signed in May 2010, required Barat to find alternative space by Dec. 1 and notify all faculty, employees, students and parents by Dec. 17.
Watson said Barat signed the lease with the understanding the school would be first in line to buy the property.
Developer Paul McKee, the school's board chairman, has said Premier Bank's failure brought the FDIC into the picture, complicating attempts to negotiate.
After Premier's failure, the school stopped paying its $25,000 monthly rent. Watson has said that move was intended to get the FDIC's attention. She said the board has tried to buy back the property.
The property has been for sale for months listed at $17 million. In June, the school signed a consent judgment agreeing to pay $216,000 in back rent, interest and other charges. It also surrendered possession of the property, but the company agreed to wait until June 28. On June 30, its attorneys had a judge sign an order giving them the power to evict Barat.
Meanwhile, parents and students are rallying around the school. A prayer vigil has been scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. A rally is planned on July 21.
Previously parents pledged a total of nearly $2 million of their own stock, real estate and other assets to help the school secure a line of credit. The school has operated in the red since it opened, but McKee has said he expects that to end within less than 18 months as larger classes arrive. Tuition at the school is $12,650.
Lisa Lineback, 38, of Chesterfield, said her children already experienced the loss of a school with the closing of Gateway Academy in Chesterfield. Her daughter Diane expects to be a junior at Barat this year.
Lineback said she believes in the school's leadership.
"If I didn't think it was a solid, stand-up, great place to get a Catholic education, I wouldn't have chosen that school," she said.