Another Delaware charter to close

Delaware’s Red Clay School District will close one of its three charter schools due to poor academic performance and financial woes.

The district’s board of education voted unanimously Wednesday to not renew the charter of Delaware College Preparatory Academy (DCPA), a K-5 school in Wilmington with just over 200 students. Barring a legal challenge, DCPA will close at the end of the school year.

Poor academic performance, lagging enrollment, and fiscal worries prompted the district to act.

A report from the district’s accountability committee noted that DCPA failed to meet state standards in 12 of the 14 academic areas established by the Delaware Department of Education’s performance framework. On the most recent round of state tests, DCPA also fared poorly. Less than five percent of the school’s third graders, for instance, were deemed proficient in English while less than one percent of fourth graders were up to par in math.

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Meanwhile, school enrollment has plunged.

DCPA has 276 students during the 2011-12 school year, but has lost students in every subsequent year. There are now just 186 students enrolled, according to the accountability committee’s report.

That loss of population is crucial since charter schools are funded on a per-pupil basis. In April 2014, the school restructured its debt service in order to stay solvent, according to the report. It ended the most recent fiscal year with a balance of just $1,315.76.

There are also concerns about how DCPA spends its money. A report from the state auditor’s office released in September questioned reimbursements handed out to DCPA leadership. The auditor found insufficient documentation for roughly $23,000 given to DCPA’s executive director and board president

DCPA first opened in 2008. Its student body is 94.6 percent African American and 77.8 percent low income, according to state records. It is one of just three charter schools authorized by Red Clay. The other two are the Charter School of Wilmington, widely recognized as one of the state’s top schools, and the Delaware Military Academy. The State Board of Education oversees the rest of the Delaware’s charter schools.

Red Clay has never before closed a charter school, and the decision to not renew DCPA’s charter was many years in the making. The school had been on probation dating back to 2012, a designation that prompted added oversight from district administrators.

DCPA is now slated to become the third Delaware charter school to close in the last year. The state shuttered the Maurice J. Moyer Academic Institute and Reach Academy at the end of the 2014-15 school year. It will decide Thursday whether to close Delaware Met, a recently opened charter school beset by administrative and organizational turmoil.

At Wednesday’s meeting the Red Clay board also elected to renew the charter of Delaware Military Academic for another five-year term.

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