Stony Point Academy’s 150 students will have to look for a new school and its teachers look for new jobs after the Bellevue Union school board decided Monday night to shut down the charter school.
The board voted 4-1 to close the school by the end of June, upsetting the hundreds of students, parents and teachers who packed the meeting at Taylor Mountain Elementary in a last attempt to save the school. Angry their students will have to go to larger neighboring schools, some parents confronted board trustees at the end of the meeting, which was rowdy at times.
“I’m sorry,” board president Stephanie Merrida-Grant said to a shouting mother. “This decision didn’t come lightly.”
She and trustees Victor Ayala, Joy Bruce and Adele Walker voted to shutter the school after listening to presentations by Superintendent David Alexander and the district’s new chief business officer, Chris Kim, who laid out a grim budget outlook for the school over the next two years.
Kim projected the school would continue deficit spending even if it reached its targeted 42-student enrollment increase next year.
“If SPA doesn’t meet its fund balance, it must be balanced by the district’s general fund,” he said.
Principal Daniel Chaja, however, disputed the figures, calling them too conservative. He said the school has made a number of cuts, which would keep it in the black.
“The budget is way overstated,” he said during the meeting. “They’re using budgeted figures that somebody else came up with without consulting me.”
Alexander took issue with Chaja’s comment and pushed back.
“I take great offense by you standing there and painting that as untruthful,” Alexander said about the budget presentation. “That doesn’t create relationships. You know better.”
School supporters contend they were blindsided last week by the board’s initial call to close the school, which Chaja said costs $1.8 million to run annually. The board was expected at that meeting to weigh options on how best to deal with the growing school’s facility needs.
On Monday, some families threatened to pull out their younger children from the school district, waving signs that read “I will” and “#ustoo.”
“It’s a loss for the whole community,” said John Jarvis, who has a freshman son at Stony Point Academy.
“He’s definitely heartbroken,” he said about his son, who got emotional earlier while addressing the board. “This school means a lot to him.”
Lisa Reyes was the only trustee to oppose the shutdown. She has voiced dismay over closing the school, which first opened at the Bellevue Elementary campus in 2013.
“We created it. We need to find a fix,” Reyes previously said. “The students don’t need to pay for it. It’s not their fault.”
The school, which serves about 150 students in grades seven through 11, has been adding a grade level each year since it opened in mid-2013.
The district previously planned to move the growing charter school to land it purchased north of Meadow View for $300,000 but had to halt the move after California tiger salamanders, an endangered species, were found on the site.