Allapattah

Charter school needs new home after this semester

 

Special to The Miami Herald

The River Cities Charter School will have to find a new home next year because its landlord, the Archdiocese of Miami, doesn’t want the school to stay.

“The decision to terminate your charter school license agreement is a final decision,” wrote Sister Elizabeth Worley, on behalf of the archdiocese in a letter dated “Holy Thursday.”

The school, at 3405 NW 27th Ave. in Allapattah, serves about 150 underprivileged youth, including those with special needs, from the surrounding neighborhood. More than 90 percent of the kids’ families have incomes near the poverty line and most perform several grade levels below where they should be, according to the school.

“Our kids shouldn’t have to worry about whether they are going to survive today,” said Maria Rodriguez, of Allapattah, whose two children attend the school.

“Please don’t just throw us out,” said Rodriguez. “We want our kids to stay where they feel safe.”

One school official is trying to make sense of the abrupt decision.

“We don’t understand what’s going on,” said Connie Crawford, principal of the middle school on the property of St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church. “Our five-year lease ends next year.”

Mary Ross Agosta, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Miami, responded to inquiries from the Herald: “Father showed good faith four years ago by offering the school the space. He is using his options in the contract and the decision has been finalized.”

Though Crawford acknowledges that a clause in the lease grants the church the right to throw them out, she feels that booting the school a year before the lease is up will disrupt the lives of her students. Especially since the school has been a faithful tenant.

Despite the school’s struggling financial status, Crawford added that it was able to get a $175,000 loan to add two new classrooms, update the fire alarm system and install a Wi-Fi network for class instruction.

Crawford notes the church speeded up the process soon after the school pointed out roof leaks in the classrooms, as well as mold problems. The kicker may have been when she asked to install two basketball hoops in the church parking lot.

As the days tick off the calendar, Crawford has tried “incessantly” to get someone at the church to return her letters and calls. But so far, she hasn’t received a response.

“All we want is to have a conversation,” said Crawford, who is hopeful that with the community’s support, the school may have a chance to stay open. “Please, we are desperate, someone help us.”

The school has until Aug. 26 to move out.

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