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An Eckington charter high school will close by February’s end, parents were informed today.

City Lights Public Charter School, which was founded in 2005 to serve special-needs children of high school age, sent a letter today explaining that the decision to close comes after “notice from the DC government that the school’s funding is being reduced and that this reduction raised significant issues regarding the school’s budget and its ability to operate.”

[UPDATE, 5:30 P.M.: LL is told that the school was unable to prove District residency for some students during an audit, leading to a serious reduction in its anticipated per-pupil funding.]

Executive Director Iris Lewis, who wrote the letter, was not immediately available for comment. Nona Richardson, a spokesperson for the Public Charter School Board, which oversees City Lights, says the school’s financial difficulties are “related to enrollment.” LL is told According to PCSB statistics [PDF], City Lights enrolled 62 kids in fall 2007; only one senior graduated the following spring.

A recent PCSB review of the school was critical in a number of areas. City Lights, the board found, had “no overarching curricular framework reflecting [its] academic and nonacademic goals.” It also found problems with staff turnover and an “urgent need…for certified special education teachers. Currently, there are none on staff.” In addition, the school was found not to have “sufficient systems to collect, record and analyze student academic data and gauge success in the academic and nonacademic goals” and that “very little in terms of academic and behavioral curriculum policies and procedures are written down.”

The school was issued a notice of probation in March 2008 for “deficiencies in its services to special needs students.” It was lifted by June.

Richardson says that the vast majority of students at City Lights are “high-level special-needs kids” and are likely to be placed though D.C. Public Schools. A community forum will be announced next week, she says, “which will lay out for parents what had happened and what the next steps are.”

Letter is after the jump.

January 23, 2009

Dear City Lights PCS Parents and Guardians,

City Lights Public Charter School wanted to notify you that the school has received notice from the DC government that the school’s funding is being reduced and that this reduction raised significant issues regarding the school’s budget and its ability to operate. Regrettably, the City Lights PCS Board of Trustees in consultation with me as the school’s Executive Director and Ron Holmes, our Chief Financial Officer, has determined that it is necessary for the school to cease operations and close. The school will remain open in order to transition our students. We anticipate that this transition will be completed no later than the end of February, with the goal of completing the transition over the next two weeks. City Lights PCS wants to assure you that our paramount concern is ensuring that the educational needs of our students continue to be met with minimal disruption.
The school has had various conversations with the DC government agencies that provide the school’s funding and oversight and is continuing its discussions with these agencies. We recognize the serious repercussions for our students and are making every effort to minimize disruption. We are actively exploring with the DC government what options may be available, including placement options for our students. We will update the City Lights PCS community on this process as it moves forward and if you have questions in the meantime regarding your child’s particular situation, you may contact the City Lights PCS administrative office at 202-832-4366. As I noted above, our students’ educational needs remain our paramount concern as we work through this difficult juncture.

Iris Lewis, M.Ed.
Executive Director

cc: City Light PCS Board of Trustees