Afterschool chess program shuts down

November 13, 2008 5:47:07 PM PST
Parents from as many as three dozen Bay Area schools are wondering tonight if they'll ever get the estimated $250,000 they're owed from an afterschool program. A popular children's chess program has suddenly closed up shop.

Know Chess rented space from public and private schools in the East Bay, South Bay and the Peninsula. The closures came without warning.

Shubham Mandal of Palo Alto enjoys a game of chess with his dad. The 8-year old is one of an estimated 1,300 Bay Area children enrolled this semester in Know Chess.

But the afterschool program suddenly closed down a few weeks ago.

"It feels bad because I like chess a lot and they're stopping it," said Mandal.

The closure left parents like Michelle Biche disappointed for her child and wondering about a refund of her $204 tuition payment.

Her son Owen attends first grade at Delaine Easton in Union City.

"I want to get better and beat my dad once," said Michelle's son Owen Biche.

"I hope other people see this, and other people get involved. And that this woman doesn't go on and continue to do this because it's just going to disappoint children," said Michelle Biche.

The Know Chess' office in Fremont appears closed. A neighbor says he hasn't seen anyone there in a month. Calls and e-mails by parents to Know Chess have gone unreturned. So 7 On Your Side went to owner Angela Hughes' condo in Fremont.

There, we found a Know Chess parent also looking for Hughes. We followed her to Hughes front door. Hughes refused to open the door, but later told 7 On Your Side she's been busy responding to e-mails and phone calls and promised refunds in six to eight weeks.

"It sounds like she's trying or wants to refund people their money. I'm not sure she knows when that's going to happen, and that's causing the anxiety," said Suzanne Ogawa.

Meanwhile back at Delaine Easton, Know Chess is being replaced by a competing program, U.S. Chess Mates.

The school district's nonprofit foundation has stepped in to cover the tuition for parents.

"It's the right thing to do. Our job as a foundation is to work with the community to provide access to extracurricular, pro-curricular activities," said the president of the New Heaven School Foundation Phillip Crosby.

We were the first to break the news to some of the parents.

"This is nice. It's nice to see that you know our district cares as much about the kids that they say," said Michelle Biche.

The donation covers children at Delain Easton. But the parents of 1,200 other children are still waiting for their refunds. We'll keep you posted.


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