mets charter

New Jersey will close charter school with campuses in Newark and Jersey City

Feb. 5, 2020
The mayor of Newark had urged state officials to shutter M.E.T.S. Charter School, which had poor academic performance.

The state of New Jersey is shutting down a troubled charter school with campuses in Newark and Jersey City, one of four schools that Newark’s schools chief had urged the state to close.

Chalkbeat reports that M.E.T.S. Charter School must cease operations after this school year because of persistent concerns about poor academic achievement, chaotic classrooms, and high staff turnover. The move leaves roughly 700 students to find new placements for the 2020-21.

"[O]n June 30th, 2020, M.E.T.S. Charter School will cease operation," the school's lead administrator, Damion Frye, said in a letter to the community. "The Board of Trustees and school administration are heartbroken by this news as we fully expected to be renewed for an additional five years. Even with this decision, we still affirm that M.E.T.S. Charter School has become a great place for students to learn in a progressive, safe and innovative environment."

M.E.T.S. was one of four charter schools up for renewal that Newark’s superintendent, Roger León, wanted the state to close. The state has decided to keep open the other three schools: People’s Prep, Roseville Community, and University Heights, according to sources at the schools.

University Heights, which enrolls nearly 900 students, has been under close state monitoring because of poor performance. It will remain on probation, according to a letter the school’s leader has sent to families.

The state has now shuttered at least five Newark charter schools since 2017, including the high school run by M.E.T.S. that must close its doors after the school year ends in June.

The state’s decision to close M.E.T.S.’s two campuses stemmed from their poor academic performance and insufficient improvement even after being put on probation last year, according to a letter from Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet to the chairman of the school’s board of trustees. In addition, the school exhibits serious safety issues, a “culture of low expectations,” and financial challenges caused by shrinking enrollment, the letter said.

This year’s renewal process touched off a debate in Newark after León called on the state to shutter the four charter schools. More than a third of public-school students in Newark attend charter schools.

Mayor Ras Baraka and the Newark Teachers Union sided with León, arguing that charter schools drain funding from traditional schools and fail to serve a fair share of students with special needs. Charter school proponents called León’s recommendation misguided and insisted that charter schools give families more high-quality options to choose from.

M.E.T.S. has faced serious challenges since opening its Newark high school in 2017.

Even though M.E.T.S. put in place an improvement plan, the state is not confident “that the changes are significant enough to ensure the security and safety of the students, staff and community,” Repollet wrote.

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