Education

Low enrollment, financial trouble forces Winston-Salem charter school to close

B.L.U.E. – G.R.E.E.N. Academy (BGA), a Winston-Salem charter school, is going out of business after one year because it could not enroll the minimum 80 students needed by Tuesday to remain open.

The school, founded to improve academic outcomes for low-income students in underserved communities, is also without a home after St. Peter’s Outreach Church did not renew its lease.

The school still owes the church $86,000. State charter school officials said BGA leaders plan to meet Tuesday to figure out how to pay the debt.

Policy Watch was unable to reach BGA leaders for comment.

The Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) unanimously approved the school closure during a called meeting Tuesday. The State Board of Education will consider the matter during its meeting this week.

CSAB member Sherry Reeves recalled how excited the founders were when they first discussed opening the school with the board.

“I hope that in the future, they can regroup and come back stronger,” Reeves said. “I appreciate the fact that they understand they are going under and that this is the best move for their students.”

BGA specialized in leadership, entrepreneurship, cultural awareness and development of the whole child.

It enrolled only 37 students in Grades 5-6 at the end of last school year.

BGA leaders had hoped to meet the state’s 80-student minimum by adding Grades 7-8. By late June, the school had only enrolled 48 students.

BGA board Chairwoman Sheryl Ragland explained in a June 30 letter to Dave Machado, director of the Office of Charters Schools, that marketing efforts to boost enrollment fell short because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has had a consequential impact on the board’s ability to increase enrollment and to fundraise,” Ragland wrote in the letter also signed by Dave Brake, the school’s director and principal.

She said BGA staff and families have been notified of the decision to close the school.

“The academy has facilitated school transitions into the local public school system for each student where he/she resides,” Ragland said. “Recommendations for other charter schools in the county were also provided.”

The minutes from the BGA Board of Directors June 25 emergency meeting shows school leaders worried about being forced to close by CSAB, which would render the founders unable to reapply for a charter.

They also show that leaders reached out to other schools to inquire about sharing space but was unable to find one willing to do so.

And Ragland expressed doubts about enrolling 80 or more students because parents are reluctant to change due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty around school reopening.

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