The Philadelphia School District said Sunday it would immediately accept transfer students from the abruptly shuttered William D. Palmer charter elementary school.
Students can start taking classes in the new year - even without transcripts, said Fernando Gallard, school district spokesman. Classes resume Jan. 3.
"What we're planning to do is accept students immediately without transcripts. The thing we have to be aware of is students with special needs," Gallard said.
Gallard said Sunday the charter administrators had notified the district of the imminent closure over the weekend.
"We are working on finalizing a transition plan for Palmer students. What that means basically is to get access to their records. It's very important. We have already had this issue where the parents have had trouble getting records when the Palmer high school closed."
For children from Palmer's closed K-8 elementary and middle school, "we will be flexible. They will be placed where there is space" in schools around the city, Gallard said.
The School District posted a notice for parents of Palmer students looking to place their children in other schools.
"Our staff is working quickly to ensure that your child has a smooth transition to district schools. If you have any questions about the Palmer or Wakisha Charter Schools transition process, please contact the Charter School Office at 215-400-4090 or the Office of Student Enrollment and Placement at 215-400-4290, or e-mail email@example.com," the district said on its website.
The board of Wakisha Charter School in North Philadelphia voted last month to close Dec. 23. That closing affected 261 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders who attended the financially troubled charter school at 800 W. Jefferson St.
Walter D. Palmer, founder of the embattled Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School, said he would continue to fight for reform of the city's education system - adding that the sudden closing of the elementary school on Dec. 31 "is horrible, horrible. The parents are very frustrated. We took in children nobody wanted."
"My message to parents and students is that I will always be there for them. I'll be on top of this. I've been doing this for 60 years. I'll continue my fight to bring real reform in the city of Philadelphia," Palmer said.
The Palmer charter high school closed this year because it had enrolled hundreds more students than it was allowed. The elementary school will close Wednesday, according to a letter dated Dec. 26.
The letter was sent to Palmer parents with information about enrolling their children at other schools and was signed by Palmer and several representatives, including attorneys Jack Pund of JLP Associates, Robert Gamburg, and Donald Benedetto.
"It is with a sad and troubled heart that I notify you of . . . the board of trustees decision to permanently close the school on Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014," Palmer wrote in the two-page letter, adding it was "the only option available."
The central issue was money. Palmer had for years argued that the cap on the number of students it was permitted to enroll was political and designed by the district to control competing charter schools.
"Many people believe we were targeted because of our strong, public stance in terms of school choice," Palmer said.
School District officials countered that Palmer could enroll no more than 675 students in grades K-8 - an agreement set forth and signed in 2005. Palmer insisted the charter could enroll as many as 1,300, including pupils at the high school.
But in May, the state Supreme Court sided with the district and said Palmer was not entitled to be paid for students above the 675 limit.
The K-12 charter, which opened in 2000, had campuses in Northern Liberties and Frankford.
Palmer blamed his last-minute letter to parents on a lack of communication with district Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., writing, "Dr. Hite has not responded to my request to meet."
In an interview, Palmer blamed unwillingness to enter into a payment plan to return $1.5 million owed to the district.
"We tried to negotiate a payback over a period of time, like $30,000 or $50,000 a month, but they never entertained it," Palmer said. This month, the district demanded $250,000, which Palmer didn't have.
Over the years, Palmer has faced criticism that executives were too highly paid and that management employed nepotism in hiring.
According to the most recent two years of tax returns filed with the nonprofit database GuideStar.org, Palmer's daughter Dara worked as a pre-K instructor and earned roughly $50,000 a year. Palmer's son Amir Joshua worked in "student support" and earned $72,000 in one year.
And his related nonprofit Palmer Foundation earned $180,000 for "curriculum development" supplied to the Palmer schools.
Daira Hinson, the Palmer school's director of administration, invoked the Fifth Amendment 22 times in hearings last month regarding how the charter school's budget was overseen.
Hinson's son Trent also worked for the school and earned just over $48,800 and $58,000 in two consecutive years, according to Form 990 filings, which are public.