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Baltimore school board votes to close Monarch Academy

Posted at 9:14 PM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 05:52:15-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — After much discussion on whether Monarch Academy should remain within the Baltimore City school system, the board voted to close the school at the end of the school year. Tuesday night, the board voted 6-3 not to renew the school's charter in June. City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises says the sole purpose of the recommendations are to develop high quality schools.

It's a decision that impacts 1,000 Baltimore families and it weighed heavily on school commissioners.

"This wasn’t an easy process. We understand and I appreciate the passion and the energy of all the staff at Monarch because they love those kids and you can see that," commissioner Johnette Richardson said.

Another commissioner called this the most challenging decision for her in her 2 years on the board.

Monarch Academy teachers said the school believed in providing a unique learning environment for its students, but the school board pointed to low test scores and special education concerns.

"Over the past 3 years, students with disabilities at Monarch consistently score below their peers at other schools on the PARCC assessment," a board staffer said.

But parent Bonnie Peterson says that's not true.

"It's going to affect my child... he's excelled at Monarch. I have to go home and tell him that the school board decided for whatever reason to close his school that he considers home and family," Peterson said.

Since learning about the recommendation in November, parents, teachers, and students rallied multiple times to try and save the school, even delivering 1,000 petitions to the Mayor's office. Monarch Academy leaders say this is not the end of their fight. It just got more difficult.

"We’re gonna be very resilient and we are gonna learn how to move forward because these children still need to learn to bounce back from this," principal Kiara Hargrove said.

RELATED: Rally to keep Monarch Academy open

Hargrove is in her second year at the school, as is Chief Academic Officer Nakia Nicholson. She hoped the recent change in management would convince the board to give them more time to show they are impacting students.

"I was hoping they would find it in their hearts to give us that time but we are gonna appeal it because we firmly believe in the work we are doing and we firmly believe that students should have the best place and that is Monarch," Hargrove said.

Monarch staff and staff with the school's operator, The Children's Guild, plan to file an appeal with the Maryland State Department of Education, citing misinformation given to the board.

Meanwhile board staff have put together a plan to help make the transition as smooth as possible for students and make sure they aren't being sent to other low performing schools.

Monarch Academy is one of five schools the board voted to close on Tuesday night. Gilmor Elementary, Northwood Appold Community Academy and Roots and Branches School will all close at the end of the school year. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary/Middle will close at the end of the 2020 school year.