Families stranded as two Eagle Rock charter schools close

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The back exterior of Celerity Rolas, which closed the week of July 13, 2018 due to financial difficulties on Monday Sept. 10, 2018. Grace Pozen/The Occidental

Thursday, Aug. 23, only a few days into the school year, Eagle Rock students and parents arrived at Partnership to Uplift Communities (PUC) iPrep Charter Academy to find the school shut down. According to parents Maggie Darett-Quiroz and Cindy Reyes, the school board sent an email about the closure the previous evening, although many families did not seem to receive this message in time. The charter school did not have the funding to keep its doors open for the 2018–2019 school year. According to the board’s email to families, the school needed 200 students to attend, but only 114 were enrolled.

This closure of PUC iPrep Charter Academy came only months after the closing of another charter school in Eagle Rock — Celerity Rolas Charter School — which closed July 18. Both schools were unable to meet the minimum number of students required to fund the upcoming school year. Students who were expecting to complete the school year at either of these charter schools were moved to other schools in the area, with many students being sent to public schools within the Los Angles Unified School District (LAUSD).

The front exterior of PUC iPrep Charter Academy, which closed Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 due to low enrollment on Monday Sept. 10, 2018. Grace Pozen/The Occidental

Darett-Quiroz said it was supposed to be her 5-year-old’s first time attending PUC iPrep Charter Academy, and after the sudden closure, she had no school to send her to.

“It has been very emotional,” Darett-Quiroz said. “It was the worst experience I’ve had in a very long time.”

According to Darett-Quiroz, nearly every public school in LAUSD has a waiting list. She said that her husband was forced to go from school to school, begging for them to admit his child on such short notice, nearly two weeks after the beginning of the school year on Aug. 14. She said that she received no support from PUC iPrep as her family struggled through this traumatic time.

Mark Quiroz, the husband of Maggie Darett-Quiroz, attended the PUC Schools board of trustees meeting Wednesday, Aug. 22, but Darett-Quiroz said that he had no idea the school would be closing when he left that evening. Just hours after the meeting ended, the school board unanimously voted to shut down the school, Darett-Quiroz said.

Celerity Rolas Charter School in Eagle Rock also closed its doors due to a lack of enrollment. Celerity Rolas, however, closed July 18, before the start of the school year, allowing parents and students the opportunity to search for a new school before the first day of class. This closing came after a long year for the Celerity charter network, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, has been under federal investigation by the International Revenue Service (IRS) for reckless spending by its CEO, Vielka McFarlane.

The parking lot of Celerity Rolas, which closed the week of July 13, 2018 due to financial difficulties on Monday Sept. 10, 2018. Grace Pozen/The Occidental

Like Darett-Quiroz, Cindy Reyes was left without a school for her child. Originally, she had enrolled her kindergartener at Celerity Rolas Charter School, but upon closure of the school, she decided to send her daughter to PUC iPrep Charter Academy, only to be left without a school again, two days into the year.

“I have been very frustrated because a lot of the schools were full,” Reyes said. “I have been left traumatized by this process. I know charter schools are good academically, but they can’t seem to get their funding together.”

Reyes said she received help from officials in the LAUSD system as she searched for a new school for her daughter, rather than receiving aid from either of the charter schools that closed. According to Reyes, her daughter eventually enrolled at Eagle Rock Elementary School.

Both of these Eagle Rock charter schools were ultimately closed by a lack of enrollment. According to Ronald Solórzano, an education professor at Occidental, the opening of a new charter school will often pull students away from other charter schools in the area, rather than from traditional public schools, because families flock to charter schools as they provide a more flexible curriculum and smaller class sizes.

“Public schools have failed,” said Solórzano. “Especially for our students of color. Schools sustain and reproduce inequality. That’s not going to change, but charter schools might make a dent in it.”