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Aloma D. Johnson Charter School will close, citing financial struggles

A charter school that struggled in recent years to attract enough students will close at the end of this school year in June.

The board of trustees for the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School in Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood withdrew its application with the state Education Department to renew the school’s charter.

Board President Jerry Linder said the school simply didn't have the finances to continue as it is currently structured.

“Parents wanted a school that was K through eight, and you can’t blame them,” said Linder. “We were not able to provide that.”

The school has operated since 2008 with grades kindergarten through four. About 255 students are currently enrolled and will need to find other schools for next fall. About 35 staff, including teachers, aides and administrators, also will be searching for new jobs.

The board held an emergency meeting Dec. 31 to vote to withdraw a charter renewal application that was submitted in August. Linder sent an email to the state Education Department on Jan. 2.

Families were invited to a meeting that was held Saturday explaining the board’s decision, she said.

The board sought over the years to expand and offer grades five, six, seven and eight, but state officials rejected the applications, saying the school hadn’t performed well enough in meeting proficiency standards to warrant the additional grades, according to Linder.

The school had a budget of about $3.9 million. It ended the 2017-18 school year with a $480,643 operating deficit and needed more students to generate enough revenue to balance the budget.

Charters are publicly funded, independently run schools that operate with greater flexibility than traditional public schools. This year, the state is paying Aloma D. Johnson Charter School $13,350 per pupil, its primary source of revenue.

Aloma D. Johnson Charter School was designed to accommodate 300 students in kindergarten through fourth grade, and in past years it had achieved close to that number.

But enrollment fell to 247 in 2017-18 and improved only slightly for this academic year.

“Fortunately, we had a large cash reserve, but we started to have a need to dip into that reserve,” said Linder.

Without the additional grades, and with more charter schools coming on line in Buffalo, Aloma D. Johnson Charter School wasn’t able to recruit enough new students, she said.

“We wanted to go up to grade eight so that we could be competitive with the other charter schools,” Linder said.

Aloma D. Johnson Charter School started on Michigan Avenue and moved in 2013 into a former church building at 15 Jewett Parkway, at the corner of Main Street.

Linder said the school will invite other charter schools and Buffalo Public Schools to recruit Aloma D. Johnson students at a “school fair” and will also help staff find jobs in other schools.

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