LINCOLN SQUARE — Staff at the Old Town School of Folk Music received buyout offers last week but school officials say the letters have nothing to do with the planned sale of its Lincoln Park building.
Non-faculty staff that choose to take the buyout by Nov. 30 will be eligible for a severance payment “to help with the transition out of the job,” according to a the buyout letter. Day-of-show concert staff aren’t eligible for the buyout, according to the letter.
The letter also says that the school does not plan to give raises in 2019.
“Depending on staff interest, this is a one-time option, the School may be able to avoid or reduce involuntary reductions,” the letter said.
Dave Zibell, spokesperson for the school, verified the letter Monday and said it had nothing to do with the planned sale of the school’s building at 909 W. Armitage Ave. The buyouts instead aim to “address projected budget challenges in the coming year.”
“The incentive offer for voluntary separation is not related to the Armitage building sale. It is very important to distinguish that the sale of the Armitage building is not related to balancing the School’s annual budget,” Zibell said in an email.
In October, the school’s leadership announced it would sell the location, with the proceeds seeding a school endowment to be called the “Armitage Fund.” The school described the sale as “the beginning of a new chapter” that would help secure financial independence for the school’s future.
However that announcement caught many students and teachers by surprise and has led supporters to push the school to keep the historic building open. Efforts so far have included an online petition and a Nov. 10 rally in front of the school’s Armitage location.
On Monday, the Save Old Town School group also shared a letter on their Facebook page that was delivered to the school’s board of directors.
“We continue to believe that student enrollment can be increased significantly by listening to students’ concerns, by strategically applying digital marketing approaches, by experimenting with new approaches to class pricing, by building a stronger sense of community among students, and by involving students and teachers more in the School’s outreach efforts,” the letter said.
The letter also asked for a meeting with the board.
“The process of preparing the building sale is continuing,” Zibell said. However, the property will not be actively marketed until early January 2019 due to the holidays, he said.
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