GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 9, 2013

Update: Charter abruptly shuts down after midday dismissal

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, expected to continue operations through Friday, instead closed its doors for good today after a “going away” party for students, the few remaining teachers and parents, and a 12:45 early dismissal.

Board of Trustees Chairman James Caviston told the Times that a final vote by the Board of Trustees on a shutdown of the school won’t come until the trustees meet tonight, but acknowledged that today marked the public, independent school’s final session. With a continued declining enrollment, the school is essentially insolvent and cannot meet payroll or cover any more days’ pay for staff, several sources told the Times this morning.

The school’s Board of Trustees last week had already voted to already prematurely close the school at the end of classes this Friday. But trustees sent two emails to parents last night, according to a number of parents. One parent said the first letter suggested the parents find spots for their children to start attending public schools or state approved schools as of Thursday. The next email said the school would have to close its doors today with the early dismissal after an 11:30 a.m. party for students.

At least one teacher was laid off as recently as yesterday and several others were let go as of Sunday amid the school’s financial collapse, sources told the Times. A few teachers, some of the trustees and Head of School Beth Delforge were at the school today.

Even in surrendering the school’s charter under pressure last month, the GCACS trustees had expected to keep the school open through the end of its third school year, as part of bargain reached with the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. But enrollment further declined in December and last week, resulting in a reduced money flow to the school from the state, which provides fjunding to charter schools based on a per-pupil basis. On top of that, a lower line of credit from outside lenders prevented the school from gathering enough funds to remain open through June, according to school trustees.

At a Jan. 2 meeting, trustees said they found it inevitable that the school would need to close earlier than the June date they bargained for when they signed an agreement that the state would fund the school monthly, based on enrollment. The trustees at that time chose this Friday as the closing date, calculating that as the latest date they could remain open to without having to lay off teachers and staff. But the school’s full financial insolvency became evident on Tuesday, necessitating today’s shutdown, sources have told the Times.

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Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.