BY KATY MURPHY | insidebayarea.com
A prominent independent school in the East Bay has announced plans to buy property across the street that since 1929 has been home to the area's most vulnerable children—first as an orphanage, and now as a school and mental health treatment center.
The leaders on both sides of the deal, which won't be finalized for another six months, say it would benefit their institutions. The land acquisition would allow Head-Royce School to expand its 14-acre campus by more than 50 percent. Lincoln Child Center, a children's services provider that runs a school on the other side of Lincoln Avenue, no longer needs such a large space, said its president and CEO, Christine Stoner-Mertz.
"Lincoln Child Center and Head-Royce have been neighbors for decades, and always worked cooperatively," Stoner-Mertz said in a prepared statement. "As we looked towards our futures, we saw a unique opportunity that was aligned to serve the needs of both our organizations."
Recently, Lincoln has begun to move away from a centralized service model, instead fanning out to work with children in their local schools and neighborhoods. It has other offices in Oakland, Hayward and Pittsburg and might open more. Last year, the organization closed its residential program, a home for 16 children located on the upper portion of the Oakland hills property.
Lincoln's K-8 school, Conyes Academy, serves 42 children referred from their Alameda County school districts because of behavioral challenges; many suffer from emotional trauma. If the sale goes through, that school would remain in place for two years, on a portion of the 7.8-acre property that Head-Royce would lease back to Lincoln as officials search for a new location, Stoner-Mertz said.
Robert Lake, Head-Royce's head of school, said he did not expect construction to take place during that time.
Lake said that no decisions had been made about major projects and that there was no budget or timeline for the capital improvements.
"We're going to take our time and be thoughtful and have a really open and inclusive process," he said.
Ideas for the new space include a swimming pool, a performing arts center, a second playing field and a larger play area. In the short term, Lake said, the school will likely use the extra acreage to alleviate traffic on the steep stretch of Lincoln Avenue that runs between the two properties and to create more parking.
About 830 children now attend the K-12 school, a number that might eventually grow as a result of the expansion, he said.
At Conyes Academy, eighth-grade teacher Marjorie, who has no legal surname, said she is excited about the future of her organization. Still, she said, there are so many memories on the campus that leaving will be bittersweet.
"I'm really happy that the land here is still going to be used for the same purpose that it has been for so long," she said. "There's some joy in that for me. There will be kids here. There will be classrooms here. There will be learning here."