After 14 years of operation, Oceanside Charter School in Atlantic City will close at the end of the school year in June.
The school was notified by the state Department of Education late Thursday that its charter will not be renewed because of poor student performance.
Charter Tech High School in Somers Point did have its charter renewed. The Vineland Public Charter School was also renewed and approved to expand, adding grades six through eight for a maximum of 336 students in kindergarten through eighth grade by 2017-18.
Oceanside is one of three schools in the state whose charters were not renewed. The others were the Institute for Excellence in Winslow Township, Camden County, and Liberty Academy in Jersey City.
Sixteen charter schools were up for renewal this year. Three were put on probation. Others were renewed but denied expansion.
Jeanine Middleton, a founder and chief school administrator at Oceanside, had been concerned about the renewal and was sad but resigned to the decision when contacted Thursday night.
She said she knew that the new more rigorous review process would make it more difficult for her school to meet renewal requirements, especially on student test scores.
“I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I have to accept it,” she said. “There is really nothing to do. I am not going to plead or appeal.”
Located on Bacharach Boulevard, down the street from the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, the school has always attracted students from some of the poorest sections of the city. It is still based in the original trailers that were supposed to be temporary, and like many charter schools it struggled to find a better facility.
A planned vote in August by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to grant the school $1.7 million for an expansion project was halted after questions were raised about the school’s test scores.
Middleton said she was able to show in her renewal application that her school outperforms public schools in the neighborhoods where her students live, but Oceanside does not perform better than the Atlantic City School District as a whole.
The letter from the state outlines the test scores and notes that Oceanside’s passing rates on state tests are 2 percent lower in language arts and 1 percent lower in math than the Atlantic City School District. The letter said the school has not shown it has the capacity to dramatically improve student achievement in the future.
Middleton said families and staff were notified Thursday night, and she is planning a meeting Monday evening to explain the process and options. She said the school would continue to operate as usual and is currently planning for state tests.
“We will serve children until the last day of school,” she said.
Middleton said she is proud of what she has accomplished at the school, and she does not fault Gov. Chris Christie or the Department of Education for wanting to maintain a high standard for charter schools. An Atlantic City resident, her own children have attended Oceanside.
“I feel we did make a difference,” she said. “I built something I am proud of.”
The school currently has 380 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade whose parents will now have to make new plans for the next school year. About 300 students live in Atlantic City, and the rest come in from other towns.
The Atlantic City schools are also getting overcrowded, and district officials plan to reopen the Brighton Avenue School in September to alleviate overcrowding at Texas Avenue and Sovereign Avenue schools.
Also still unknown is the status of the Atlantic City Community Charter School, which was approved by the state in 2011, but has yet to open. In July 2012 the state gave the school a second planning year, but so far no opening plans have been announced.
Original plans called for that school to open with 150 students in grades kindergarten through five in September 2013, then expand to 950 students in grades kindergarten through eight. The school was to be modeled after the Chester Community Charter School in Chester, Pa.
Oceanside will be the fifth charter school in Atlantic County to close since charters began in New Jersey. Most recently PleasanTech Academy Charter School in Pleasantville closed last year after its charter was not renewed.
Once Oceanside closes, the only charter elementary school in Atlantic County will be the Galloway Community Charter School in Galloway Township.
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