About 150 parents and children came to a meeting Thursday night about the future of Eastern University Academy Charter School, expressing worry that the charter risks closing a month before the school year begins.
The Philadelphia School District cut off funding to Eastern after a state board voted in June to close the school. Eastern has the right to appeal in court, but hasn’t yet received a written order from the board.
Eastern chief executive officer Omar Barlow urged parents to contact their state representatives and the Philadelphia school board, telling them the district acted illegally in ending payments to the charter before it had exhausted its appeals to stay open. The district says that the school’s charter will no longer be valid once the appeals board issues its order, and that it wouldn’t be able to recoup the money if it paid the charter and the school then closed.
“You need to be upset about what they’ve done," Barlow told the crowd at New Covenant Church of Philadelphia in West Mount Airy. “These are things that happen to brown and black children.”
Barlow, who has accused the School District of targeting minority-led charters, told parents the charter was still preparing to open on Sept. 9. While parents applauded his pledges to challenge the district — the charter sued in July — they also questioned what would happen next month.
"You say you are hoping that it opens. What if it doesn’t? Where does that leave my granddaughter?” one woman asked.
Yvonne Turner, Eastern’s chief operating officer, said the school was “looking at alternatives we can offer our families if and when that time comes."
A number of parents said they would not send their children to a neighborhood school and were upset by a School District letter sent last month offering to help enroll their children in a district school.
“I was afraid. I don’t want her to go to her neighborhood school,” said Stephanie Harris, who lives in North Philadelphia and has a daughter entering eighth grade at Eastern. She tried to enroll her daughter in another charter, but “everything is pretty much closed up.” Harris said she would homeschool her daughter if Eastern closes.