Acclaim Academy closing its doors, parents, teachers left with quesitons

School is closing Friday; parents scrambling to choose new schools for students

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With just weeks left in the school year, hundreds of students at Acclaim Academy on the Westside will have to find a new school after officials abruptly announced this week that the school is closing Friday.

About 250 students' families are left to figure out where the students will go for the last few weeks of school.

'Why couldn't they let us know a month ahead of time? How do you tell someone you need to find a new school for your child in a few days?" parent Stacy Apostle said. 

READ: Letter to parents about closing of Acclaim Academy

Representatives with the Duval County School District said they have a team working on a plan for students and will send out a letter to parents letting them know what options are available for their students.

Parents are frustrated because they just found out Wednesday the military-themed charter school would be closing on Friday, and they were told they have to pick a new school by then.

Assistant Principal Dwayne Thomas said the upheaval started last week with a call from the man who owns the school and two others in the state under the umbrella of Acclaim Academy.

Thomas said the owner told administrators the school was having financial challenges.

News4Jax learned that of the other two Acclaim Academy schools in Florida, an Orlando location closed on Wednesday and a Kissimmee location is being taken over by the school district.

"He told us we needed to start eliminating positions, so we eliminated four positions last week, and we thought that would take care of the situation," Thomas said.

But it didn't.

Thomas said Monday the owner called again to say the school would be closing by the end of the week.

"It's a sad day any time a school has to be closed, especially when it has to be closed earlier than anticipated," Thomas said. "We thought that we would make it through the end of the year."

Despite not knowing if they will be paid, Thomas said he and other administrators are doing their best to help students through what many acknowledge is a challenging time.

"I don't know, this has put my whole household in an uproar," said Valerie Griffin-Brown, mother of a sixth-grader and a 10th-grader at the school. "I will have to separate the middle and high school so that's going to put me and my work schedule off. I don't know how this is all going to work out for my family."

Some parents told News4Jax Thursday that they were able to speak with representatives from the school district to help them pick out a new school.

"Now it's going to be hard for him, and they told me that if I put him in another private school, he's not going to pass the ninth grade," parent Sheena Cason said. "So they said I have to put him in a public school. He hasn't even taken his tests yet."

Some parents said they don't like the alternatives given to them, and some of the students said it's going to be a difficult transition.

"I feel like if you're going to close down the school, I feel like a child should have a choice which school they go to, because it's not her fault they closed down this school," parent Karen Gamble said.

There are just weeks left in the school year, they are in the middle of testing, and this charter school school has become like family to them.

"They should have just let us finish the year out," student Breon Roberts said. "We're trying to find schools for everybody to go to so we'll be straight with our grades, but I mean we're still going to be off track either way it goes a little bit."

Acclaim parent Lori Denmark said she is frustrated.

"I mean, she was wanting to go into the military, so now what?," Denmark said. "Now we have to go to a public school? Go back to a school that's unacceptable for us?"

News4Jax is still waiting for the Duval County School District to provide information about exactly which schools the students will be able to attend.

A Duval County Public Schools spokeswoman said charter schools have their own curriculum, and if a student chooses to enroll in a Duval County school, then the student will be assessed and the goal would be to have the student graduate on time, if they fulfill that school's curriculum.

She also said all of the students who attend Acclaim Academy have the right to be home-schooled, attend a merchant school, a public school or private school.

For now, parents are left trying to pick up the pieces in a short amount of time.

"I mean, I'm just not understanding why I have to now run around and throw my child in (a) school that I know nothing about haven't been able to do any research," said Griffin-Brown.

School was still in session at Acclaim on Thursday, but staff could be seen carrying boxes of records and books out of the school.

They said students are being supervised, but students and parents said that inside and outside of the school was chaos.

Students were milling around outside the building and running across the streets Thursday.

But the school said teachers and staff were there and would be until Friday, when the school officially closes. 

News4Jax attempted to contact the owner of Acclaim Academy, but the company phone was disconnected and the website was down.