With just three weeks before school starts, the Pinellas County (Fla.) School District hopes to open a new school on the campus of a charter school in St. Petersburg that abruptly closed.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that the district is seeking to step in after the governing board of University Preparatory Academy voted without warning to close and leave 400 students without a school.
Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego urged the school board to approve a plan to reopen the campus as a district school with a new name but the same students. To do so, state officials will need to sign off.
Leaders of the charter school were expected to present an improvement plan to the school board at Tuesday's meeting. Instead they skipped the meeting and voted to close their school. Grego was notified of their action via text message.
In a letter to parents, University Preparatory Academy's executive director, Darius Adamson, and board chair, Anthony Polazzi, said they closed the school because its low academic performance made such a fate inevitable.
The academy "has received an F state school grade for the third year in a row," the letter says. "By state law, this means that the school must close. At the meeting, our board decided to explore whether or not we had grounds to appeal to the state for a waiver to stay open. Unfortunately, we have confirmed that [the school] did not make strong enough learning gains this past school year to win an appeal."
The charter school opened in 2013 and was viewed by many in the community as an alternative to the failing schools in south St. Petersburg. It enrolled students in grades K to 8.
Grego told board members that the alternative to opening a new school—absorbing more than 400 more students into neighboring schools—wouldn't be easy. The superintendent said he would like to let a school operate at the academy site for 2016-17 and then evaluate whether to keep it should continue.