Parents frustrated after Alianza Academy opens for the school year, closes two days later

Posted at 7:15 PM, Aug 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-20 21:15:00-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – A charter school on the verge of closing made it official the day after the first day of the new school year.

Parents dropped off their kids Wednesday at Alianza Academy in West Valley City for the first day of school, and later that evening they received an email saying Alianza Academy would shut its doors--leaving parents little time to enroll their children in another school.

Thursday morning parents like Lynette Keemer showed up at Alianza Academy demanding answers.

“We get an email at midnight? Half of us are already asleep, if we get up at 6:30 to get our kids here at 8, how am I... I don't even know where to start as far as what to do, so we just came here,” Keemer said.

School administrators said they were forced to close due to low enrollment and notification from the State Superintendent that the school would lose state funding.

This comes on the heels of Alianza’s plans to appeal a decision made by the state charter board last week. The school was on probation for budget and academic reasons.

“They've had since March to address the deficiencies, and when it became clear that there were doubts as to whether or not they were going to be able to address those deficiencies we began the process of termination and proposed termination August 5th,” said Howard Headlee, chairman of the Utah State Charter School Board.

But the school says they weren’t given enough time to turn things around.

“To have things pushed to the last five days before school and to have this decision happen so quickly, the day of school, has been a blow to us,” says Maryann Petela, director of Alianza Academy.

The academy opened in 2011 with campuses in West Valley City and South Salt Lake.

They served low-income, minority students with unique educational needs.

Ciara Jones is a parent of a student at the school who said it’s sad to see it close.

“My son has accomplished so much in one school year," Jones said. "It's amazing what they do in their program.”

Parents are scrambling to find alternate schools, and they said it’s hard to get into other charter institutions because it’s run by a lottery process and spots are already filled.

“I guess my alternative option is a public school unless I can take on homeschooling, which is a lot to handle when you have a full-time job,” Jones said.

Parents left the school Thursday with few answers.

“I don't know how someone can rip something out from underneath you like that," Keemer said. "I don't know what kind of society we're trying to grow here. In my opinion, it's not cool."