The Haddonfield board of education held a special meeting on Feb. 9 to approve the purchase of the Kingsway Learning Center in Haddonfield for $1.495 million, with a $100,000 deposit.
The hope is to use the building as an early-education center for full-day kindergarten and full-day preschool. It is estimated Kingsway could hold about 400 students, with the new version ready at the earliest by the 2025-’26 school year.
The board meeting opened with public comments and a number of residents voiced their support for the acquisition, as well as concerns about the impact the location would have on traffic, pickup, drop off and parking.
Superintendent Chuck Klaus acknowledged there were contingency plans built into the contract, so within the first 90 days, the district can back out for any reason. Opportunities to reverse the decision also have a 180-day window for reasons such as zoning board rejection.
“A lot of the work, about traffic patterns, drop off, pickup, parking, we have to solve,” Klaus said. “Now that we’re going to have complete access to the building, we’re going to start looking at those actual pieces and solve those problems.
“If we can’t solve those problems, we’re going to get out of the deal, because we have to make it work.”
While there were ideas about how to solve issues prior to the acquisition, they lacked the support of data. The board’s purchase of Kingsway allows for more detailed research to be done on those potential problems. Next steps also involve the architect evaluating the building; drawing up plans; coming up with solutions to parking, pickup and drop off; and putting together a program.
If all is settled, the hope is for the building’s rehabilitation to be funded by bond referendum next year. If there aren’t solutions to the issues, the district will likely back out. The board also discussed potential charges for preschool, though kindergarten will be free.
The next regular board of education meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m., at the Haddonfield Memorial High School Library.
This article has been updated on Feb. 16 to clarify that Kingsway Learning Center is in Haddonfield, not Cherry Hill.