Charleston's first Mandarin immersion school faces possible closure

posted by Brad Streicher, Reporter/MMJ - 

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

The first Mandarin immersion school in Charleston may be closing after opening its doors only two months ago.

A letter from the South Carolina Public Charter School District said the district recommends the Board of Trustees vote to revoke the charter for East Light Academy.

That means the academy would not receive any funding from the district.

The letter from the district lists several deficiencies as reasons for revoking the school's charter, including financial concerns, low enrollment, lack of special education services, a shortage of certified teachers and other problems.

"SCPCSD staff does not believe the school will be able to correct these deficiencies and operate long-term in its current financial position," the letter from the district said. "Therefore, in accordance with the South Charter Schools Act (S.C. Code Ann. ยง 59-40-110), the SCPCSD staff recommends the SCPCSD Board issue a Notice of Revocation to the School."

The school had a meeting on Tuesday night and a lot of parents attended to voice their concerns and frustrations.

"It puts us in a very difficult position because school has already started so enrollment is already closed and many schools are already at full capacity. So we may not have another option to send our kids to another school," East Light Academy parent Keith Galster said.

"It sounds like once the decision is made to pull finding, it will go pretty quick that my child won't have a school," East Light Academy parent Kanani Burns said. "I can't let that happen."

A letter from the school sent to parents on Monday said the school plans to fight the recommendation from the school district.

"We have been planning a request to appeal the school district's decision of charter revocation," the letter from the school said. "We believe that, by recommending charter revocation, the school district does not treat East Light Academy fairly."

The school district sent a letter to the school about the deficiencies as early as Sept. 7.

Several parents complained at the meeting, saying they should have been notified earlier of the school's deficiencies and the challenges they faced.

"I think that transparency is a very important thing in every institution," East Light Academy Principal Przemyslaw Murczkiewizz said.

Murczkiewizz also said he is disappointed to see the school facing the possibility of being shut down.

"I know that the parents and kids are very happy here. So this is a very important thing," Murczkiewizz said. "I see that family atmosphere here. Every morning, people are coming with their children, and they feel very, very comfortable."

A spokesperson from the school district said there will be a board meeting to take action on the recommendation on Thursday at 10 a.m.

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