A June 2 letter addressed to Imagine Marietta Families by Carmen Hurst, regional director of Imagine Schools Georgia, said the school would not convert to a private school under a new name for the 2011-12 school year.
“It is with great sadness that Imagine Schools writes this letter to inform you that Wright Prep Academy will not open in August of 2011,” Hurst said.
She said the city of Marietta informed school officials that it was zoned as a public, not a private school. City Manager Bill Bruton confirmed that the school would need to seek a zoning change if it planned to operate as a private school.
“Second,” Hurst writes, “the most recent decision by the Georgia State Supreme Court ruling concerning charters schools has put into question the future of start-up charter schools in the Marietta City School District. This in turn places the future of our charter school at risk, and as you know, our first commitment is to our students and families,” she writes.
Marietta school board member Randy Weiner said of the 184 students at Marietta Charter School, seven didn’t live in the school district, while 20 to 25 were rising sixth-graders planning on enrolling in the Marietta Sixth Grade Academy, which leaves about 155 students. Weiner said Marietta will have no problem absorbing those students within its elementary schools.
Hurst said Imagine is weighing its options in deciding what to do with the school building, which it owns. But as for the desks, computers and other supplies that fill the school, those were taken this week by Marietta City Schools, Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck said.
“Those items were purchased with taxpayer dollars and need to go back to the school system, so we’re declaring the equipment surplus so that any of it that can’t be used by our schools can be sold or recycled depending on the quality,” Lembeck said.
Lembeck said even if the school had elected to become a private school, it would not have been able to use the equipment.
Located off Wright Street by Reynolds Street, the school, which had fewer than 200 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, was managed by Imagine Schools, Inc., a for-profit company based in Arlington, Va. It operated under a charter agreement with Marietta City Schools since 2006. But last summer, the Marietta school board refused to renew the charter for another five-year term, based on Lembeck’s findings that the school had wide-ranging problems with enrollment, finances, student achievement and curriculum.
Appeals to the state board of education and the state charter schools commission were unsuccessful, and the school was set to close on June 30.
School Principal Christy Tureta tried to convert the school to a private school for the following year, giving it time to seek a new charter from the Georgia Charter Schools Commission for the 2012-13 school year. Imagine would have shouldered the full cost of operations, projected to be $1.7 million, and the school would have changed its name to Wright Prep Academy, she said. However, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the commission and the 2008 law that created it were unconstitutional on May 16.