JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - What amounts to a simple paperwork issue led a high-profile private school in Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood to abruptly shut down Friday.
Arlington Country Day School was put on notice in October, and again in November, after administrators could not provide a number of student records during a fall visit by the Florida Department of Education.
The state suspended the school's eligibility to several critical scholarship programs after administrators repeatedly failed to provide the requested paperwork, according to a copy of a Jan. 19 complaint.
DOCUMENTS: Read the state's administrative complaint
Without access to funding from the John M. McKay, Florida Tax Credit and Gardiner scholarship programs -- which, parents contend, the vast majority of students relied upon -- the school could not afford to stay open.
News of the sudden closure threw students, parents and faculty into turmoil Friday, as parents scrambled to find new schools where they could enroll their children and staffers batted down rumors over the phone.
"It is with a very sad heart that I inform you that ACD is closed as of 1/26/18," head of school Deborah Condit wrote in a letter to parents. "I speak for all the faculty and staff who will miss your children greatly. It has been an honor to serve you and to be trusted with your children."
An education department spokesperson said the state learned of the closure Friday after fielding media inquiries and referred questions about the decision to school leadership.
"Our top priority is working with parents to ensure a seamless transition to another participating private school or to a public school," spokesperson Audrey Walden said.
It appears the school's troubles began with an Oct. 12 visit by the state, during which administrators did not have records -- birth certificates, Social Security Numbers or medical documentation, among others -- for a number of students. The school had 20 days to get the issue sorted out.
The following month, after the school failed to comply with the initial feedback, the school was given a 30-day window to submit the missing documents. According to the Jan. 19 administrative complaint, that paperwork has still not been provided.
The school was then given 15 days after receiving the January complaint to challenge the suspension of that scholarship eligibility. In lieu of an appeal, the school closed for good.
That left dozens of families in the lurch. One parent said her demands are simple. "I just want answers from them, I want my paperwork back from them and ... I need my money back," she said.
Bob Bell, who taught at the school, said he and other faculty members have not been paid. He told News4Jax the whole issue could have been avoided.
"If this was an administration problem, if it was a clerical error, if it was something in the office that caused this, it could have been fixed," Bell said. "It didn't have to be done this way."
In the vacuum created by the closure, a number of schools have reached out to let parents know there are other options available. We've compiled a list below:
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.
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