ST. LOUIS • The sponsor of the six under performing Imagine charter schools announced this morning that two will close at the end of the school year and four are on probation due to academic, financial and leadership failure.
James French, chairman of Missouri Baptist University’s Education Division, notified each school’s governing board of the decision by letter today after a weeks-long review.
At the school year’s conclusion, the university will revoke the charter for two Imagine schools — Imagine Academy of Academic Success and Imagine Academy of Cultural Arts. The elementary schools have a combined enrollment of 872 children.
Neither school was living up to academic performance standards, was financially sound, or was showing signs of improvement, according to the university, which began sponsoring Imagine charter schools in 2006.
"Our primary concern is for the children attending the Academy," French wrote to Joan Hubbard, board chairman of Imagine Academy of Academic Success.
Almost all city charter schools operated by Imagine Schools Inc. performed worse than all other charters on the Missouri Assessment Program tests this year, and well below St. Louis Public Schools.
Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of traditional school districts.
"While we recognize that the gap between your students and other City public school students existed since the beginning of the Academy, it is disturbing that the gap has continued, and in some instances grown greater," French’s letter to Hubbard states.
The other four Imagine schools — Imagine Academy of Careers Elementary, Imagine Academy of Careers Middle, Imagine College Preparatory Academy, and Imagine Academy of Environmental Science and Math — have until spring to show considerable improvements in specific areas listed on several pages, including the creation of attendance plans and providing an 8-hour school day as the charter requires.
If the schools do not make the improvements in the next couple of months, they, too, could face closure.
"It is the hope that your Board and the administrators of the Academy will understand the gravity of the situation and take all necessary action to avoid revocation of your charter," French wrote to Reynaldo Anderson, board president of Imagine Academy of Careers.
The St. Louis charter schools that are operated by Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc. serve about 3,800 students. Imagine Schools, the largest charter school operator in the nation, has come under fire in numerous states for the operating fees and rent it charges schools, resulting in less money for classroom instruction.
Missouri Baptist will be assisting Imagine school officials in the next month to develop a closure plan. Though the university does not plan to revoke the charter for Imagine Academy of Academic Success, 1409 Linton Avenue, and Imagine Academy of Cultural Arts, 1509 Washington Avenue, until later this spring, it has threatened to close the schools if certain safety criteria aren’t met at the conclusion of winter break.
Read more in Tuesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch.