Lee Charter Academy on the chopping block
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS - A struggling Lee County charter school will close its doors for good.
Lee Charter Academy is the latest to close in what has become a growing trend leaving fewer educational options for kids after the school board voted to terminate their contract with the school Tuesday.
The Fort Myers-based charter school now joins the Richard Milburn Academies and the Learning Place Academy Charter School, which have both closed down in the pat two years.
The move comes after the Lee Charter Academy received two consecutive "F" grades. Because of that, under Florida law, it will have to close, according to school board member Mary Fischer.
"We really don't have any choice," said Fischer, referring to the state law. "We were notified by the Department of Education that the school received another F."
The charter school has endured a state investigation into FCAT scores, accusations their governing board was mishandling money and an inability to pay rent which forced them to relocate from their old location on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to Edgewood Avenue.
One 4th grade student, Joriell Washington, dreams of becoming a football star.
"I need a good education to get there," said Joriell.
Joriell is now one of 100 students that won't be getting their education at the charter school after this school year ends.
"I feel pretty sad," said Joriell. "Because this has been a good school to me."
The K-8th grade school, which opened eight years ago, will close in June after experiencing its share of troubles including high transportation costs, a declining enrollment and two consecutive failing grades.
"I'm not sad," said the school's principal Shirley Chapman. "I feel that the school has run it's course, I really do. I feel the school has run its course."
Chapman blames a lack of funding for a school that serves predominantly minority and low-income kids.
"My heart just goes out to those students," said Chapman, "that we have been able to pull up out of the cracks."
Parents we spoke with wish the school could have been saved.
"I wish it could stay open at least another year," said a parent, "to give us a chance."
Chapman says the cash-strapped school has seen a steady decline in enrollment while transportation costs increased forcing them to rely on a local church to pick up and drop off kids.
"The community did not really embrace as as much as I thought they would have,"s aid Chapman. "So I don't really feel I owe an explanation to the community."
Students like Joriell will now be given a choice between attending a charter or county school. Chapman has already written to parents urging them not to wait until the last minute and to apply now for the District's school choice lottery.
"The sky's really the limit," said Chapman, who said she was proud to have made a difference in the kids' lives, "they just have to apply themselves."
Chapman says she takes responsibility for the school's closing. She says they were taking steps to turn things around but it was too late.
The school, which was the site of an education bill signing by Gov. Charlie Crist, is slated to close in June.