Valley pre-school forced to find new home

Maria Reed Montessori pre-school has been serving inner-city kids in Phoenix for nearly 50 years but now it may be forced to close. The school has been renting space from a church, and says it got virtually no warning that Friday would be its last day. But the church says it wasn't like that at all.

Maria Reed Montessori preschool has been in downtown Phoenix since 1967. Most recently, in a building that is on the property at Grace Lutheran Church near Roosevelt and Central. But today was the last day, and school management doesn't know where Maria Reed Montessori will go next, or even if it will stay open.

Montessori is a hands-on approach to education with an emphasis on learning by doing that started in Italy. Maria Reed brought Montessori to Phoenix and the school named after her gives inner-city kids a chance to learn in this way. Parents are upset the school is losing its lease.

The school's director, Viva Ramirez, said he only learned two days ago he'd have to move everything out by tonight from the space he rents from Grace Lutheran Church.

The school says it was behind $3000 in rent because it accepts parents who aren't always able to pay tuition on time. Ramirez says the school now has the money and can pay the back rent. But the church wouldn't negotiate with him and retained a lawyer to get him out.

The church's attorney, Don Stevens, tells a very different story. He says Ramirez has been behind on utility bills since last September and on the rent for the last few months. The attorney says the church has tried to work with Ramirez for the last month without success. Though the church respects the school's mission, it simply had to end the lease.

Reed Montessori is looking for a new place to open the school which currently serves 20 students