LINCOLN SQUARE — After months of protests and negotiations, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s board decided not to sell its 909 W. Armitage Ave. building.
Instead, the school will focus on improving enrollment, Old Town School CEO Jim Newcomb said.
“After eight weeks of pretty hard work and extraordinary due diligence the board decided to not sell that location at the present time,” Newcomb said.
Last October, Old Town’s leadership surprised the school’s community by announcing that the old Aldine Hall in Lincoln Park, which has been used by the school for 50 years, was going to be sold. The school’s main location is now in Lincoln Square.
When the announcement was first made, then-executive director Bau Graves told Block Club the sale would help create an endowment fund that would “secure the future of the school in perpetuity,” and the board cited dwindling enrollment for the decision.
The announcement led to swift backlash from the greater Old Town community. Their letter writing campaigns, petitions and rallies first led the board to postpone the sale. Then on March 9, groups of teachers, students and non-faculty staff met with the board to present alternatives to addressing the school’s enrollment issue in a way that would not necessitate the sale of the Armitage building.
Ultimately, they decided not to sell at all.
“We’re lucky, Old Town first and foremost is a community of learners and our students, faculty and board are all really passionate about this place,” Newcomb said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us to make this all play out the way everyone wants it to. So we’re going to have to raise funds to renovate and upgrade some elements of that facility and we’ll need to improve enrollment there.”
While it’s a “complicated step forward,” Newcomb said the school is lucky to have a community that wants to help the school and help turn enrollment around.
“We argued from the beginning: Rather than sell the building they should fix the problems,” said Rich Gordon, an Old Town student. “Ultimately the board of directors came to agree with us.”
Gordon is a member of Save Old Town School, a group formed to fight the sale in the fall.
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