Some Families Bail Out On New Charter School As It Opens Doors At Temporary Location

BROCKTON (CBS) – A new charter school opened its doors at a temporary location on Thursday, but some parents have already decided to remove their students and return to Brockton Public Schools.

As WBZ previously reported, inspectors slapped a “stop work” order at the planned site of New Heights Charter School of Brockton because of construction without valid permits.

Faced with a ticking clock until the first day of class, charter school leaders found a last-minute temporary site in Norwood. The alternative means students will take a bus more than 20 miles away.

Apparently, the dilemma was enough to motivate some families to bail on the new charter school. According to Brockton Schools spokesman Michele Bolton, 54 students have unenrolled over the past couple of weeks in an effort to return to the public system.

New Heights Charter School of Brockton under construction (WBZ-TV)

New Heights Charter School of Brockton under construction (WBZ-TV)

On the district’s first day of school Tuesday, 16 students showed up at middle schools before they had reenrolled. Bolton said the district had anticipated issues and deployed staff to the schools.

“They called parents to explain that they were unenrolled and if they were coming back to BPS, they needed to come get the kids and begin the process of reenrolling and getting records back,” Bolton said. “It was a difficult day for the kids, who are still our first priority.”

District leaders expressed dismay about uncertain environment and the strain on resources. Some of the middle schools have already reached capacity, which means returning students may not be accommodated with their first choice.

New Heights Charter School of Brockton under construction (WBZ-TV)

New Heights Charter School of Brockton under construction (WBZ-TV)

“I think it’s grossly incompetent the charter school is opening under these circumstances,” school committee member Tom Minichiello told WBZ. “And that the State is allowing it.”

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved the temporary location on Friday with a number of conditions.

One requirement is for the school to open at its permanent site by January 3, 2017. Renovation work has since resumed at the downtown Brockton building.

DESE expected about 300 kids to attend the charter school. However, it appears that number will be lower because of the uncertainty. There were 272 students at the school Thursday. Another 15 are enrolled but did not attend. The school is following up with them.

The example will likely stoke a contentious debate over whether charter schools should expand in Massachusetts. Voters will weigh in on a ballot question in November.

Ryan Kath can be reached at rkath@cbs.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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