PLEASANTVILLE --Parents, staff and students hugged and cried on their last last-day-of-school at PleasanTech Academy Charter School on Friday, leaving with only a small bit of hope that they might return in September.
“We have our appeal in place, and we are still holding out hope,” said parent liaison Doris Rowell even as state officials began the process of removing student records from the school in the Pleasantville Shopping Center.
The school, which opened in 1998, was notified in March by the state Department of Education that its charter would not be renewed and that it would have to close June 29. The state sited frequent administrative turnover and poor student performance among its reasons for the non-renewal.
Parent Allen Ragland of Pleasantville said he was surprised when he heard about the poor test results because his son, Isaiah, 6, has done very well at the school.
“He’s reading at a fourth grade level,” he said. “He had homework every night, he was really learning.”
Rowell and other parents have complained that the closure leaves them with few options because test results from Pleasantville public schools are not much better than the charter school’s results. Most of the school’s more than 500 students come from Pleasantville, with some also coming from Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Township.
Many parents are hoping to move their children to the Galloway Community Charter School or Oceanside Charter School in Atlantic City, but they know there is not enough room for all of them. Some may return to the public school, or consider a Christian school.
“Everyone is trying to get into Galloway (charter),” said Raina Willliams of Atlantic City, whose daughter and son attend PleasanTech. She said with two new schools scheduled to open in Atlantic City she might consider the public school, “but PleasanTech was my first choice from day one.”
Mary Ames said her family is moving from Pleasantville to Egg Harbor Township, so her children will go to school there next year.
“But I still would have preferred to have them here,” she said. “It’s a great school.”
Her daughter Isjamonee Banks, 11, has attended the school since she was in kindergarten and said she likes writing and math best.
“You can do a lot of things here,” she said.
Parents consistently cited the small class size and family-like feel of the school as the reasons they chose it. While her sons Alexander, 8, and Giovanni, 7, looked through the yearbook, Ivelisse Soto of Egg Harbor Township said it will be hard for them to be separated from their friends next year.
PleasanTech guidance counselor Mary Naumowitz said while the younger students don’t really grasp what the closure means, there has been some anxiety among students in the middle school grades who have been at the school since kindergarten. Sixth-grade math teacher Linda O’Donnell hugged students as they left.
“We’ll see what happens,” she said.
Naumowitz said finding out in March gave her time to talk to students about change and attending a new school. She formed friendship groups and has been discussing how to make new friends.
“They are going to have to fit into a new place,” she said. She said it has also been hard for staff because even while they hope the school stays open, they have to clean out their rooms and look for new jobs.
“My trunk is full,” she said.