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Mesa Charter School Closes Day Before School Starts, Leaves Parents Scrambling

Textbooks, school, education
(Photo via Graphicstock.com)

School has started for most Arizona kids, but some parents and children were left scrambling after an East Valley charter school closed Sunday, 24 hours before the first day of school. 

Parents received a letter via email from the Hillcrest Academy board saying the Mesa school was closing August 1, a day before students were supposed to start.

The letter says after working on budget issues and lawsuits, the charter representative and principal became ill and could not continue work. It says the board could not find a replacement and rather than struggle through a first semester, it closed before school started.

Executive Director of Arizona State Board for Charter Schools Whitney Chapa says she got a similar last-minute email from Hillcrest Academy saying it was closing even though other earlier correspondence indicated it was staying open.

“Since we just became aware they aren’t opening the school we would have to determine whether they’re going to be in front of the board at the next board meeting for being out of compliance with their contract,” she said.

The Arizona charter board met Monday but were told of the closure after the agenda had already been written, so took no action on it.

The decision to revoke the charter will come during its next meeting in September. Or the board may decide to work with Hillcrest to have it surrender its charter.

Chapa says closing charter schools usually give more time to help parents find other options.

“It is an unfortunate situation and we definitely don’t like to see parents being notified so close to the beginning of the school year or even after the school year had begun,” she said.

Chapa says the charter is out of compliance with its contract and can either volunteer to give it up or the board will take action and revoke the charter in September.

Hillcrest Academy in Mesa had been open since 2013, though their charter was established in 1997 under a different name and had gone through several name changes before Hillcrest. 

It was first called Life Enrichment Community School and then became Destiny Community School. 

The phone line for the school has been disconnected and the Hillcrest Academy charter representative could not be reached for comment.

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.