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Parents Plan Bid to Save Beleaguered Private School

Times Staff Writers

Want to buy a private high school, or at least the desks, furniture and filing cabinets to outfit one?

If you have more than $3,500, you might be able to beat the current best bid for the beleaguered Pacific Shores Private School in Irvine. Its assets will be up for sale July 31 as part of a bankruptcy proceeding, seven months after the school was ordered closed by the Internal Revenue Service.

The public sale is the latest chapter in the financial and legal troubles of the 5-year-old school, which is in an office building at the former Lion Country Safari Animal Park.

Robert Mosier, an attorney who was appointed trustee by a bankruptcy judge, said the parents of some students have indicated that they want to buy the assets and try to reopen the school in time for fall classes. But the sale is open to anyone.

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“Well, the school made it through the calendar year,” Mosier said. “All its equipment is in storage, but there is every hope that it will reopen in the fall.”

In December, the IRS ordered the school to close because owner Mark Weichel had allegedly failed to pay more than $53,000 in delinquent employment taxes dating back to January, 1987.

Weichel got a bankruptcy judge to temporarily protect the school against creditors while he tried to reorganize. And the school opened for the spring semester. But several parents pulled their children out of classes when they discovered that Pacific Shores did not have accreditation from the state, meaning that many colleges would not recognize its curriculum.

At the school’s inception, Weichel had tried to fashion Pacific Shores into an Eastern-style college preparatory

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institution. At its peak last year, there were 80 students, Mosier said. But this year ended with an enrollment of about 50. Mosier said tuition ranged from $400 to $500 a month.

Many of the parents have blamed Weichel for mismanagement, while others have remained loyal to him.

Weichel did not return phone calls for comment.

Under the bankruptcy order, Mosier took over the school’s financial management, and parents who continued to support the school held an auction and other fund-raisers to keep it afloat month to month.

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At one point, Weichel sent out letters to corporations asking for donations.

“Pacific Shores Private School is completely dependent at this time on student tuition, which, due to our high salary costs of quality teachers, does not enable us to meet both payroll on time and pay the everyday costs of rent, taxes, insurances, etc.,” he said in the letter.

A few months ago, a consortium of parents came up with a plan to buy the school, but that effort fell through. Now, the parents of two students have come forward and told Mosier they would pay $3,500 for the school’s assets, which are valued at $8,000 by the IRS, he said. He also said some of the teachers--the school has a staff of nine--have a contingency plan to purchase the assets if the parents don’t come through.

The winning bidder would be buying desks, television sets, VCRs and other visual-aid equipment, filing cabinets, sofas and other furniture, Mosier said. The price tag does not include any structures.

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In fact, a new location for the school will have to be found. Last year, Weichel was fined $1,000 by the city of Irvine because the school lacked a permit to operate within the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station’s crash zone--a primary landing and takeoff corridor for military jet fighter planes.

Mosier said that if the school reopens, Weichel will probably be kept on as principal.


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