- WeWork is closing WeGrow, its educational arm, at the end of the school year as the coworking company’s new leaders look to right the ship after a failed IPO.
- Rebekah Neumann had overseen WeGrow, which had about 100 students and cost up to $US42,000.
- One WeGrow parent not linked to the Neumanns talked to Business Insider about how he viewed the school for his three kids, and what he’s thinking now that the school is set to close.
- For more WeWork stories, click here.
WeWork is shuttering its WeGrow school as the company continues to close and spin out businesses under new leadership after a failed IPO.
The office company piloted the school with a handful of students two years ago. Last year, it opened WeGrow, led by Rebekah Neumann as CEO, in WeWork’s New York headquarters. Tuition at the school, which has about 100 students enrolled, ranges from $US22,000-$US42,000, depending on the child’s age.
The Huffington Post first reported WeGrow’s closing on Friday.
After a tumultuous lead-up to an initial public offering that was ultimately shelved, Rebekah Neumann stepped down from WeGrow last month as part of a slew of leadership departures. Her husband, WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann, left his job as CEO but has stayed on as non-executive chairman.
New co-CEOs Artie Minson and Sebastian Gunningham are re-focusing the company by shedding businesses, slashing thousands of jobs and offloading the Gulfstream G650 jet the Neumanns used. WeWork’s precarious financial position could be shored up with a $US5 billion debt package the company is discussing with JPMorgan, Bloomberg reported Friday.
A WeWork representative said in a statement that WeGrow will close at the end of the academic year.
“As part of the company’s efforts to focus on its core business, WeWork has informed the families of WeGrow students that we will not operate WeGrow after this school year. WeWork and the families of WeGrow students are engaging in discussions with interested parties regarding plans for WeGrow for the following school year,” the WeWork representative said.
The curriculum: mentoring, farming, and more
Rebekah Neumann had big plans for WeGrow, starting with an elementary school in New York that she planned to be a model for how education could fit in at WeWorks around the world. In the company’s August filing to go public, WeWork said “we also expect to expand our education and learning programs to broaden the reach of our grow mission.”
The school had not yet expanded beyond New York, where children would learn both inside the Chelsea headquarters and at the Neumanns’ 60-acre farm north of the city.
WeWork’s Rebekah Neumann insists that all technology she uses is white-coloured, and her assistants once had to break apart her phone, spray paint all the pieces, and put it back together for her
One WeGrow parent, Raj Gupta, has three children in WeGrow, he told Business Insider last month before the company’s leadership changes. He did not have a prior relationship with WeWork or the Neumanns, and said his family first applied for the school after reading about it in the New York Times. Gupta said he and his wife, who is a Yale- and Harvard-trained child psychologist, were drawn to WeGrow’s philosophy of combining education with nurturing children through community and mindfulness efforts like yoga.
As an entrepreneur, Gupta also liked the school’s focus on building future business leaders and cultivating kids’ interests.
“Some people like technology, some people like baking, some people like sports,” he said. “We felt in the traditional school setting, if it didn’t fit the mould of the school, those things go to die.”
On occasion, WeWork employees and entrepreneurs who rented office space from the company taught lessons. Adam Neumann led a workshop on supply and demand, Business Insider reported in 2017. The elementary school students could also link up with WeWork customers to be mentors.
One of Gupta’s children is interested in polar bears, so the elementary schooler worked with his mentor to create a podcast to interview a scientist from the nonprofit group Polar Bears International. Gupta’s son used WeWork’s recording studio to produce the podcast.
The weekly trip to the farm further appealed to Gupta’s city family.
“Working the soil and growing things and feeding them – it gives a sense of how life is created and how food is created,” he said, noting the lessons of patience and other skills his kids learned at the farm.
We checked in with Gupta after learning the school would close. He said the WeGrow community of parents, teachers, and children still believed in the vision, and would “organise and create a winning solution for all stakeholders.”
“Rebekah created a beautiful school where kids’ superpowers, happiness, love, spirituality and learning are the core,” he said.
Bjarke Ingels-designed school
WeWork spared little expense with WeGrow. Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ firm BIG designed the New York school, and a former WeWork real estate employee told Business Insider that WeGrow was one of the few real estate projects Adam Neumann personally got involved with. According to Fast Company, the design would break down traditional classroom environments into “more tactile and visually stimulating” work stations.
Multiple WeWork employees sent their children to the school, including at least one employee who was let go as part of the wave of cuts after the new CEOs took over.
The Neumanns are not the only tech couple involved in educational efforts. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan run a private company that funnels the couple’s Facebook stock into programs that improve schools. They also own a school in Palo Alto.
Got a tip? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-1627 using a non-work phone, email at [email protected], or Twitter DM at @MeghanEMorris. (PR pitches by email only, please.)
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