A second Tacoma charter school will close for good. Low enrollment and money woes cited

A second Tacoma charter school will close for good. Low enrollment and money woes cited

TACOMA, Wash. — Destiny Middle School in Tacoma will close its doors at the end of the month, Green Dot Public Schools announced Friday.

Closure of the charter school was due to low student enrollment and financial struggles, the California-based nonprofit said in a statement.

“The necessity of this decision was driven by waning enrollment, amplified by recent actions in Olympia to lock public schoolchildren out of public funding,” Joe Hailey, board chairman of Green Dot Public Schools Washington, wrote in a statement. “Green Dot seeks to serve those families whose experience of the public school system is not consistent with the expectations they have for their children — here, this is mostly children from lower income backgrounds and mostly children of color.”

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Green Dot Washington’s board of directors voted to close Destiny Middle and one other school, Excel Public Charter School in Kent.

The closure marks the second charter school in Tacoma to close its doors at the end of the school year. SOAR Academy announced its closure in January.

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After this school year, Summit Olympus High School will be the only charter school in Tacoma, serving students in ninth through 12th grades.

“School closure is a very difficult decision and our hearts go out to the impacted communities,” Summit Olympus principal Greg Ponikvar said in a statement to The News Tribune. “We remain committed to the Tacoma community. Here at Olympus, we’re excited to report that 100 percent of our graduating seniors have been accepted to at least one four-year college, and we are seeing strong growth with test scores.”

Destiny Middle School opened its doors for the first time in 2015 and serves grades 6-8.

“Green Dot’s mission to help transform public education means that our model is premised on sustainably operating on public financing,” Hailey wrote. “The ongoing fiscal gap that restricts public charter schools like ours from accessing local levy funding means that there would be a permanent structural deficit for our schools.”

Currently enrolled students have shown academic growth, according to Washington State Charter Schools Association.

“Closure is hard and certainly is a juxtaposition to the great news about graduation for Summit Olympus and Sierra next week,” WA Charters CEO Patrick D’Amelio said in a statement. “These developments point to a sector that is focused on continuous improvement, quality, rigor and equity.”

Green Dot’s counseling team is working one-on-one with families to find future placement, the organization said.

“We will continue to provide as-needed supports to families for the entire 2019-20 school year as well, to aid in the transition back to other schools,” Hailey said.

“We’re prepared to accept and assist the families returning to (Tacoma Public Schools) if that’s what they choose to do,” Tacoma Public Schools spokesman Dan Voelpel told The News Tribune. “... any students that would want to come to TPS, we have room in our schools to accommodate students.”

Earlier this year, Destiny Middle School submitted to the Washington State Charter School Association an intent to expand the grades it serves from 6-8 to K-8 to fill the void left by SOAR’s closure.

Washington state will see its first graduating class of charter school students this school year. Currently, there are 12 charters operating in Washington. With three closing and one opening, there will be 10 charters operating in the 2019-20 school year. Four have been authorized to open in the 2020-21 school year.

For more on this story, visit The News Tribune.