Eastern University Academy Charter School, which told parents earlier this month it planned for classes to resume as scheduled even though it had lost School District funding, has announced that it won’t reopen Sept. 9.
A state board in June upheld the former Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s (SRC) closure decision, and the district cut off its payments. Eastern’s leaders had informed parents it was fighting the School District in court and intended to open next month. But the school now says it wouldn’t be possible to resume classes then.
“It is with great sadness that due to the defunding of our school … Eastern will not be able to open for the 2019-2020 school year,” a message on its website reads. The message says school leaders will be contacting each family.
While the School District previously contacted Eastern families, offering to help them enroll in district schools, Eastern’s website includes a list of other charter schools that it says are accepting students. Charters, which educate about 70,000 of Philadelphia’s 200,000 public school students, are publicly funded but independently run.
“We cannot guarantee admission to these schools,” the website’s message says. “You must apply and meet each school’s admission requirements.”
The message also says Eastern has appealed the state Charter Appeals Board’s (CAB) decision to Commonwealth Court.
The school’s CEO, Omar Barlow, did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday morning.
Eastern leaders had previously said that 320 students had signed up for the 2019-20 school year.
A parent of one of those students said Tuesday she was frustrated by the charter’s communication with families, including at an Aug. 8 meeting where Barlow — who has accused the School District of targeting minority-led charters — argued that the district’s actions were illegal and instructed parents to contact the school board and their elected representatives.
“I felt like we were misled at that meeting," said Myisha Stratton of Olney, whose daughter was slated to enter eighth grade at the charter in West Mount Airy. “They should have told us so we had better planning.”
While the School District had sent Eastern parents a letter in July, telling them it was “very possible” the charter might not open for the 2019-20 school year, Eastern’s leaders “told us to ignore it,” Stratton said.
As with many charter school closures in Pennsylvania, the events leading up to Eastern’s announcement were years in the making.
The SRC voted against renewing Eastern in April 2018 — nearly a year after the School District recommended the school’s closure. Under Pennsylvania charter law, the SRC needed to first issue a notice of nonrenewal, listing its reasons for recommending closure. Then a hearing had to be held.
After the SRC’s vote, Eastern had the right to appeal to the Charter Appeals Board. The board voted June 18 to uphold Eastern’s nonrenewal — though it didn’t issue its written ruling until Aug. 14, when it laid out its agreement with the SRC’s decision that Eastern had failed to meet student performance standards, and had violated laws and the school’s charter agreement.
Stratton, who said she learned Thursday that the charter wouldn’t be opening, has enrolled her daughter at AMY Northwest. A district-run school, it’s not among the options listed on Eastern’s website. Stratton said that her daughter found it and that it seemed like a good school, with academic admissions requirements.
Like a number of Eastern parents, Stratton had said she would consider home schooling if the charter closed. But with her daughter entering high school next year, Stratton said Tuesday, she wanted assistance with finding the right fit.