After Fighting Foreclosure, Lawrenceville School Forced to Close Friday

The owner of Riverside Day School said she exhausted every option to try to save the school. Now parents must scramble to find new schools for their children.

Riverside Day School is closing its locations in Lawrenceville and Gainesville Friday (Courtesy: Riverside Day School)
Riverside Day School is closing its locations in Lawrenceville and Gainesville Friday (Courtesy: Riverside Day School)

On Wednesday, December 11, a letter went out to parents at the Riverside Day School letting them know its two locations will be shutting down at the end of this week. 

After 14 years of educating young minds, the last day of classes at the school on Riverside Parkway in Lawrenceville and its school in Gainesville will be Friday, December 20.

In a letter to parents of the school’s 125 or so students, owner Penny Godwin blames the recession for the school’s closure. She says the bank with which she had a loan for the school with—the People’s Bank of Winder—was taken over by a “loss share” bank—Community & Southern Bank. 

“We had a special financing agreement with People’s,” Godwin said in an interview with Lawrenceville Patch. She said as an example, People’s would accept just interest as a payment during the school's slower months. “The other bank was not willing to go along with the agreement.” So the new bank began to foreclosure on the property and buildings in October 2012.

“I have entertained five offers from potential buyers who would like to keep the businesses running,” said Godwin in the letter. This option would have allowed the 20 teachers and staff to keep their jobs and the students to keep learning, but Godwin would have had to look for new work. She says the bank did not respond to any of those offers.

Godwin knows the timing—less than a week before Christmas—is difficult for parents and staff. 

“I begged for a May 2014 date to make it easier for the children and to have more opportunities to secure a viable option, but my time has run out,” said Godwin in the letter.

Parents like Lucy Mockalis are shocked by the news. Mockalis has a child in the school’s pre-kindergarten program.

“I am so upset she did not disclose this prior to enrolling my child in their pre-k. Now, I have to scramble along with the other parents of the enrolled children to find another pre-k,” Mockalis told Lawrenceville Patch. “This is so devastating as we were just blindsided by this. Why would she offer two Pre-k classes this year knowing the business was on the brink of closure?”

“Parents weren’t notified because we were in negotiations constantly,” said Godwin who was hopeful to find a solution. You don’t pull the plug until you have to.”

Godwin spent 14 months looking into other options like a long-term lease or selling the business. 

Last week Godwin was forced to give up the fight after receiving word from her lawyers that there would be no further negotiations.

Godwin says what she will miss most is the close-knit community at the school and the relationship with the children.

“One student told his mother ‘I don’t want to go anywhere else,’” said Godwin of a conversation had between a parent and a child.

Other schools in the area have come forward with jobs for teachers and spaces for students after learning the news.

“We’ve had other schools call and say we have openings for a teacher or a bus driver,” said Godwin. “We have been referring them to our staff.”

Godwin has also welcomed other pre-k and after school programs to come and leave literature for parents.

~Do you have children who attend the school? Tell us how you feel about the school's closure in the comment section below.

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Lucy Mockalis December 19, 2013 at 07:25 AM
Why don't you ask the teachers how they feel? Which daycare hires new pre-k teachers mid-year when no new pre-k classes are opening? The sad part is that I know of at least one other daycare that reduced their class size from 4 to 3 this year, and now that there is a need to open it and the state will not due to bring mid year. All the kids are now scattered and forced to make new attachments.
Jason stewart January 17, 2014 at 01:27 PM
A little update. I work maintenance for community and southern bank. When the cold wave came through a few pipes burst and the water ran for days without anyone knowing so know we're in the process of cleaning the up the damage
Lucy Mockalis January 17, 2014 at 08:40 PM
Well then I guess it ended up costing the bank more...
Tara Sewell February 10, 2014 at 02:23 PM
My son attended the Gainesville location until the end of November last year. I really feel for all the teachers there. Specifically those who worked in InfantA and InfantB. We got to know them fairly well during the time my son was there. Now, I'm trying to file my taxes and I can't get ahold of anyone to get the EIN... Does anyone have contact information for them?


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