JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Parents of students who attended a now-shuttered private school in Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood struggled to get answers Tuesday, four days after the school's abrupt closure.
Families showed up to Arlington Country Day School to collect their children's records and in the hopes that principal Deborah Condit would explain why the K-12 school suddenly shut down.
Instead, they were met with the same silence they have been subjected to since receiving a letter Saturday informing them that they needed to enroll their children elsewhere.
"She's (Condit) not even talking to us at all. She doesn't want to see us. She's just locking herself in the office and doesn't want to talk to us at all," said one parent, who did not wish to be named.
Confronted in person on the school's campus, Condit refused to answer a reporter's questions. Time and again, she directed a news crew to stop filming and later told them they needed to leave.
"I have given you every answer I can," Condit said. "I want that (camera) turned off. ... I need you to leave this office."
While Condit did not have much to say, Florida Department of Education records shed some light. Records show the state cut off access to some scholarship funding because of a paperwork snafu.
A copy of a Jan. 19 administrative complaint shows school staff could not produce documentation -- things like birth certificates, Social Security numbers, health screenings, immunization records, among others -- for a number of students during a fall visit.
DOCUMENTS: Read the state's administrative complaint
The same complaint indicates the state repeatedly put the school on notice, once in October and again in November, and gave them 20- and 30-day windows, respectively, to make those records available. They missed both deadlines to provide that paperwork.
The issue culminated in the January complaint, in which Education Commissioner Pam Stewart notified Condit that the school would no longer be eligible to receive funding from the John M. McKay, Florida Tax Credit and Gardiner scholarship programs.
Stewart gave Condit 15 days from that point to challenge the suspension, and provided an itemized list of the documents the school needed to produce to restore its scholarship eligibility. But one week after Condit received that letter, the school closed for good.
An education department spokeswoman acknowledged that the state took action against the school Jan. 19, but noted that it does not possess the authority to close a private school. She said state officials found out when most parents did.
Parents who spoke with News4Jax contend that scholarship funding from the state was a critical source of school funding. Without it, they claim, the school could no longer afford to operate.
But while some families are critical of the school's administration for the lack of transparency and, in general, how the closure was handled, others said Condit still has their support. Some said she apologized to them Tuesday.
"I have nothing bad to say about Mrs. Condit," said parent Melissa Boyd. "I've known for the last six years, she's been nothing but good to my child. This whole school has been nothing but good to my child. They are good people."
A number of schools are opening their doors to displaced students in the wake of the closure.
Options for ACD students
Duval County Public Schools released a statement Monday morning that the school district is providing special accommodations to enroll all K-12 students. Parents are asked to contact their neighborhood school or visit the DCPS School Choice Office at 1701 Prudential Drive from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for enrollment information. Or visit DuvalSchools.org/schoolchoice to review the schools that have availability.
Arlington Academy, 5900 Fort Caroline Road, will be accepting preschool through second-grade students Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Monday at 7 a.m. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 904-717-1590.
LaCore Christian Elementary, 8050-2 Lone Star Road is now accepting students for Kindergarten through 6th Grade. LaCore is open Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 904-894-4914.
Father's Harbor Academy, 4519 Beach Boulevard, is accepting Kindergarten through 12th-grade students. For more information, call 904-306-9579.
Impact Christian Academy will host an open house Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for enrollment and will accept walk-ins this week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call ICA Director of Admissions and Marketing Dorothy Kennedy at 904-652-1441.
The Foundation Academy, 3675 San Pablo Road S. welcomes 3-12 grade students, K-2 is completely full. Fully accredited since 1988. STEAM focused education. Tours available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 904-493-7300 to schedule a visit with Admissions Director Tricia Nurse. Transportation available.
Esprit de Corps Center for Learning, 9840 Wagner Road, is accepting Kindergarten through 11th grade. Esprit de Corps is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information and to schedule a tour, call Ms. Emily Perry at 904-924-2000.
All 35 Catholic schools schools in Northeast Florida will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday for tours and information. They are happy to extend a welcome to Arlington Country Day School parents and students. For more information, contact Lesley Harvey at 904-813-9161.
Hope Christian Academy, 1824 Dean Road, is now enrolling K-12 and accepts scholarships. For more information, call 904-733-8777.
New Leaf School for Change, 407 3rd Street in Neptune Beach, is now enrolling students in grades 4-12. For more information, call 904-246-9100.
Promise Land Academy, 3990 Loretto Road, is a Christian-based private school currently enrolling students grades Kindergarten through 6th grade for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school year. They also accept Step Up for Students Scholarships. For more information on how to enroll, contact the school at 904-268-2422 or email Principal Robbin Jackson at email@example.com.
St. Mark's Episcopal Day School, 4114 Oxford Ave., is accepting applications for children age 1 year through sixth grade. Parents can call 904-388-2632 to speak with Director of Enrollment Kelli Chunn on the application process and to schedule a visit.
Crossroads Christian School, 6429 Atlantic Blvd., will be open all through Friday for students who need to enroll. Parents can contact the school's principal, Desiree Moody at 904-254-6428 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
SeaCoast Christian Academy, 8057 Arlington Expressway, has some availability for students. For information, call 904-722-1783.
Cornerstone Christian Academy of Jacksonville, 9039 Beach Boulevard, started accepting preschool through 12th-grade students Saturday and will open again Sunday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 904-730-5500. The CSJAX posted the following message on Facebook:
Cornerstone Christian School accepts students in Preschool thru 12th Grade and offers free transportation to many convenient areas in the Arlington Community. CCS accepts the Step-Up for Students and John McKay Scholarships. For more information visit csjax.org or call (904) 730-5500.
Cornerstone will open up our doors today from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. for any parents and students that would like a tour of our facility and get a head start at transferring.