Three months after opening on Jackson Drive, Day-McKellar Preparatory School has been closed, its founder said Monday, blaming the economy and long drives for its K-12 students.
“If I could have sustained another six months or so and taken the loss,” the school in the old Home Savings and Loan building might have kept going, said founder Cara Day-McKellar. “But I chose not to do that.”
Day-McKellar’s nonreligious private school had annual tuition starting at $14,194, she said last year. But parents paid month-to-month and didn’t need reimbursement when the school shut down Dec. 17, she said. It had hoped to enroll 110 students.
Four of her 10 teachers will join Day-McKellar in a private educational therapy program she’s starting near Old Town. One of the remaining six has joined Bridgepoint Education in San Diego.
“They’re all highly qualified people,” Day-McKellar said. “They’re doing all right.”
But the parents feel terrible about the closing “because it was their children’s second home,” she said, noting it took her about a month to settle an undisclosed number of students in other private or public schools.
“These are students I’ve been teaching 5-10 years,” she said, including ones she tutored privately before starting the prep school in Alpine before its move to La Mesa. “They were like my own children. It was devastating to all of us.”
At the end of February, her new office will open for educational therapy—what she was doing for years before starting the prep school. She promised a website will be up soon.
The prep school’s website at day-mckellar.com has been shut down, however. She can still be reached at 619-991-1970, she said.
In late October 2011, Leo Hamel of Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers filed a fraud suit in San Diego Superior Court against Day-McKellar and her school, but on Jan. 3 the case was dismissed at Hamel’s request.
Day-McKellar had sold Hamel 10 percent of the prep school company, “and we had different operating styles. We decided to dissolve our partnership,” she said Monday.
She said the partnership, which ended in December, was “amicable” and: “We just didn’t need to be business partners.” The civil suit didn’t have a role in the school closing, she said.
But Day-McKellar said she and the building’s landlord had both invested $300,000 into remodeling its 9,600 square feet of space.
Day-McKellar, whose plans were profiled in late July, was born at La Mesa’s Grossmont Hospital in 1970. She attended Rolando Elementary and Monte Vista High School, graduating in 1987 at age 16. After San Diego State, she taught in the early 1990s in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District. She earned her SDSU master’s degree in 1998.
The bank where the school operated had been mostly empty for seven years, with only Barbecues Galore renting partial space. It had been vacant for a year.
In June 2011, the leasing agents Cushman & Wakefield announced that Day-McKellar Preparatory School had signed a 120-month, $1,76 million lease for the building at 5300 Jackson Drive.
“The lessor, The Dechant Family Trust, was represented by John Jennings and David Bradley of the Cushman & Wakefield Retail Advisors Team,” said an online posting.
Over the weekend, a red-and-white sign went up outside the school, saying “For Lease” and listing a phone number for agents David Bradley and John Jennings.