Charter school in Houston shuts down abruptly

Feb. 16, 2018
300 students at Victory Prep North will have to transfer to new schools after the school closes on Friday.

Victory Prep North, a charter school in Houston, will shut down on Friday because of financial problems, and about 300 students in grades K to 12 will have to relocate to new campuses in the middle of the semester.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the charter's executive director, the Rev. Lisa Berry-Dockery, blames the school's money woes on unexpectedly low enrollment following Hurricane Harvey.

"We had students who simply did not return or did not enroll," Berry-Dockery says. Typically "around Labor Day we see a huge boost in enrollment, and we did not receive that because of the hurricane." 

The announcement left some people fuming about the timing of the closure and short notice given to parents.

Parents of displaced students can enroll their children in Houston Independent School District campuses or charter schools with available space. 

Victory Prep South, a high school campus governed by the same nonprofit responsible for Victory Prep North, is expected to remain open. That campus serves about 250 students.

The decision to close Victory Prep North comes nearly two years after the Houston district threw a lifeline to the Victory Prep charter network.

The Texas Education Agency in 2016 ordered Victory Prep to shut down after receiving three straight "improvement required" ratings for poor academic performance. But Houston's school board voted to make Victory Prep an in-district charter, which allowed it to stay open.

Under the arrangement, the Houston district took on some oversight responsibility for the school, but the charter network's nonprofit board retained control over governance. Victory Prep North's governing board is the entity that decided to close the campus.

The Victory Prep North campus is a few miles north of downtown Houston. Its student population last year was about 92 percent black and 95 percent economically disadvantaged, according to state data.

Victory Prep officials had planned to increase enrollment to about 500 students at the north campus. But following Hurricane Harvey, the enrollment bump never materialized, Berry-Dockery says. School leaders waited until after the winter break, another period when they typically add students, to see if enrollment would increase, and they unsuccessfully sought donor help.

"We kept hoping beyond hope that we would be able to close the shortfall," Berry-Dockery says.

Victory Prep's high school students met state academic standards last year, but its K-through-8 students were deemed "improvement required."

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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