By Sarah Favot, Pasadena Star-News | http://bit.ly/Zaq0ga
***STAFF FILE PHOTO***First graders work together in groups on an "Eradicate Hunger Project" at Celerity Exa Charter School in Pasadena Friday, September 28, 2012. The project based K-5 school, which opened this year in the former Hodges Childrens Center, includes dance in their curriculum. (SGVN/ Photo By Sarah Reingewirtz)
9/04/14, 7:53 PM PDT :: PASADENA :: Celerity Exa Charter School surrendered its charter to the Pasadena Unified School District on Thursday and will close its Pasadena campus, officials said.
The charter school, which operated at the William Carey University site, was shut down by the Pasadena Fire Marshal last week after inspectors found the school at 1530 Elizabeth St. did not meet several fire and life-safety codes and was deemed “dangerous and unsafe.” The charter school, which serves about 300 elementary school children, was not authorized to operate a school at that site, according to the Fire Department.
Celerity Educational Group CEO Vielka McFarlane wrote a letter Thursday to PUSD Interim Superintendent Brian McDonald informing him the charter would close.
“The university continues to believe, as do we, that the site was safe and appropriate for use by our students, but it is necessary now of course that the education of the children continue under changed circumstances,” McFarlane wrote.
In an Aug. 22 inspection, Deputy Fire Marshal Anthony Bagan found there was no automatic sprinkler or fire alarm systems, inadequate egress and kindergarten through second grade classrooms were located in the basement, which is illegal.
McFarlane said Celerity parents had been notified the school would close.
PUSD will hold a meeting for Celerity parents Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Cleveland Elementary School to provide information for families.
“One thing that will be discussed is if there is interest in the feasibility of them moving as a cohort to Cleveland,” said PUSD spokesman Adam Wolfson. Parents may also decide to send their children to another PUSD school, another charter school or a private school.
“Any time a school closes it’s difficult on families, so we want to be able to provide support as well as hear them out,” said Wolfson.
Celerity Education Group board member Curt Hessler said school officials have spent the past few days trying to find alternative locations for the school.
“We’ve had some difficulty, which unfortunately, I would attribute to lack of cooperation from the school district,” said Hessler, who lives in Pasadena.
Celerity had identified the location of another charter school, SCALE Academy at 1205 Lincoln Ave., as a potential new site. However, Wolfson said, according to the agreement Celerity signed with PUSD, the district must inspect the new site to ensure it is up to code and the school board must approve the change.
“It takes time ... the clock is ticking because the school year has started,” said Wolfson.
In a letter to Celerity, McDonald encouraged McFarlane to close the school so that students can re-enroll in other schools and staff could find new positions.
McFarlane, in her letter, accused PUSD staff of preventing the charter school from operating within the district.
“PUSD staff appears to have been committed throughout this process to prevent Celerity from operating anywhere within the district, either in suitable district facilities or in alternative private facilities that were made available by their landlords to us and that have been long used by private and charter schools in the district,” McFarlane wrote.
Wolfson has said that Celerity did not meet deadlines to remain at the former Edison School at a discounted price that Proposition 39 affords to charter schools.
Wolfson said about 25 families from Celerity have already contacted the district to transfer their students.
Hessler said a large majority of parents have said they want their children to attend other Celerity charter schools, which operates locations in Eagle Rock, Highland Park and in the San Fernando Valley. Parents would have to provide their own transportation, he said.
“I find it very disappointing as longtime resident of Pasadena that we didn’t get the cooperation that we have a right to expect,” said Hessler.
Several Celerity parents and students attended a PUSD board meeting last week expressing their frustration that the school might close.
“They’re doing a wonderful job under difficult circumstances,” said Scott. “They don’t want to move. They enjoy where they’re at. They’ve been together for a number of years.”
“I wish that we did not have to change schools,” student Daniel Miranda told the board. “I do not want to go back to public school. I want to stay at Celerity Exa Charter School.”
smf: Celerity is not a mom+pop/”bunch-of-teachers-and-parents-start-their-own-school-in-Judge-Hardy’s-barn” charter. Celerity is a national charter school management organization with 26 branches/outlets/franchises in four states.
If you read above you will note that this school was being operated unsafely outside the law and the building code - without a permit.
The California Charter Law allows charter schools to operate in facilities outside the protection of California's Field Act, which mandates earthquake safety in public K-12 schools – and the Green Oaks Fire Protection Act, which requires superior fire protection in public K-12 schools – but charters must still comply with basic local building codes and fire and safety regulations – as do private and parochial schools.
This is not about test scores or even fiscal shenanigans with the taxpayers’ money. School “choice” does not include the right to choose putting kids in harm’s way at the the public expense. In the case described above Celerity Educational Group should be investigated and held accountable for criminal child endangerment.
Celerity Schools started off in 2005 as one school located on Jefferson Blvd. in Los Angeles, California. Soon after, Celerity would open up the doors to 2 more schools in 2007. Then came a 4th… and a 5th… a 6th… a 7th. By 2012,there were 8 Celerity Schools all across Los Angeles County.
Celerity’s expansion did not stop at California. In 2013, Celerity expanded its operations to Ohio with one school and Florida with 3 preparatory academies.
We are happy to announce that for the Fall of 2014, Celerity will be opening 3 schools in the Louisiana area with plans to open 9 more in the area in the coming years. Jefferson Parish, Celerity Lanier and Celerity Crestworth will be opening its doors for the 2014-2015 school year adding a bunch of new smiles and eager minds to our Celerity family.