October 30, 2012

Tax supported charter school closes six weeks into year

CBS, Sacramento CA -  Six weeks into the school year a charter school in Rocklin is closing its doors. Four hundred kids were told Friday that their school would close, and Tuesday was their last day.

But many parents say the Horizon CEO is making up false excuses for why he’s closing the doors at Horizon’s Accelerated Learning Academy campus. Fired-up families were fuming even more Tuesday over what many consider a lame excuse for the shutdown.

“They get between $5,000 and $7,000 in funding (per student),” parent Shauna Borchers said. “That’s $2.4 million in funding, and he’s going to tell me we can’t stay here and can’t find a building and safety issues? Get a new building. Get some police. Stop it. That’s not the truth.”

Horizon CEO Craig Hembichner spoke to CBS13 on Monday and said the urgent campus closure was all because of safety.

“We’ve stretched ourselves past the point of safety and we’ve got to deal with that,” he said.

Placer County issued the school’s permit, saying the campus on an office site is only meant to hold 75 students. It’s now overflowing at nearly 400.

But the county told CBS13 its staff did not tell Hembichner he had to shut down anytime soon, not wanting to interrupt the school year.

The county staff also stated they have traffic congestion concerns, but again, they say they never told Hembichner he had to shut down.

During a meeting with parents Tuesday night, Heimbichner spent the first 30 minutes of his presentation talking about the history of Horizon Charter Schools before someone finally stood up and yelled for him get to the point.

The angry interruptions became a common theme throughout. Some parents got so frustrated they walked out.

“He never answered anyone’s questions directly, and it was a waste of time and so frustrating,” student Diamond Matthews said.

At the end of a meeting that clearly had many fuming, the man in charge at first didn’t want to answer our questions.

“I think that was evident in the presentation and I think that explained everything,” he told CBS13?s Nick Janes.

He finally agreed to talk outside, again insisting the sudden decision to send students away from the Rocklin charter school is based on safety.

“We had five incidents in two weeks of near vehicle pedestrian collisions where people are jumping out of the way of vehicles,” he said.

He said he’s looking for a new facility, and in the meantime, the kids will have independent study from home.

Many parents who got just a few days’ notice simply aren’t buying it.

“They’re not behind him,” Borchers said. “He’s a very manipulative man. I don’t think he speaks the truth. I don’t think he cares about the children. I think he wants a virtual school so he can put more money in his pocket.”


Strelnikov said...

This is the first and most important rule about private/charter schools: they can close at any time for any reason.

I went to private schools during the first big private school boom in the 1980s; most of the schools I attended are no longer in business, including the high school I graduated from. I was lucky/unfortunate to watch a school collapse around me thanks to a number of parents "voting with their feet" because they felt their children were not being educated well enough.

An adjunct to this rule is "they can move at any time for any reason." My first private high school was in a bad area*, and after I left they moved twice; in fact, they moved out of the city the school was named for!


* A student was mugged for his jacket in a nearby park, an abandoned car was burned to the ground in front of the school, two students were threatened to hand over a basketball after school, and on it went.

Anonymous said...

I keep seeing articles about how awful charter schools are, but I know some kids who go to a local charter school that is much better then anything in the local public school system. Of course this charter school was set up by parents that had built a co-op school within a school at one of the local public schools. After the co-op had better success then the larger public school they were in, the public school district suddenly reclassified the co-op school as a "program" and planned to cut the co-op. This is when the co-op moved to become a charter school. So while for profit charter schools may be a disaster, this suggests to me that letting corporations take over charters is the problem, not when the charter is formed by the community.