SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education late Thursday morning postponed a decision on Capstone Classical Academy’s appeal to remain open, giving the charter school a chance to survive beyond the end of this school year.
This comes after a Dec. 10 vote by the Utah State Charter School Board to close the Pleasant View school due to the school’s financial difficulties.
It also follows a lengthy Feb. 25 hearing, where lawyers representing Capstone made the case to overturn the state charter board’s vote in front of a panel composed of four USBE members, while the state charter board’s lawyer defended the original decision.
That panel recommended closure to the full Utah State Board of Education.
Members of the state charter school board have said the school’s academic performance is not in question, but low enrollment at the school has meant that it does not receive enough funding to keep its doors open without significant fundraising, leaving it in a precarious financial situation.
The panel’s report to USBE ultimately agreed with the state charter school board’s assessment that Capstone cannot survive financially.
“Although the panel acknowledges Capstone’s diligent efforts at fundraising and that those efforts have reduced the level of Capstone’s deficits, the panel concludes that fundraising will not be adequate to make Capstone financially viable and that the level of fundraising Capstone has had to conduct to this point is not sustainable,” the report reads.
However, state board of education member Brittney Cummins, who served on the panel, raised concerns about the school’s payment date for a sum of $800,000. Two dates were presented at the hearing, but the actual due date of the amount was not determined, she said. It’s possible a later date could make the school financially viable.
“I would agree with board members who feel like we’ve gone through this over and over again. I do not disagree with the importance of moving forward,” Cummins said at USBE’s Thursday board meeting.
“However, this is a fairly significant decision that has millions of state dollars on the line,” she continued, “and I just want to make sure that we are very conscientious — that we are making these decisions based on the best information.”
While her view faced some resistance, a significant contingent of USBE members supported her recommendation, with 10 voting in favor of postponing the decision, and three voting against.
“I’ve read through everything, and I would hate to close the school based on misinformation or a misunderstanding,” said USBE member Michelle Boulter, in support of Cummins, “so I would like to get clarity on the funds and when exactly it is due.”
Capstone is a young charter, in only its second year of operation, and serves students in grades 6-12. There were 177 students enrolled at Capstone on Oct. 10, and 15 new students had joined the school by Dec. 10, according to the school’s director, Susan Goers. The school has continued recruitment since that time.
Capstone has operated using a unique, proprietary model that blends Finnish education methods with a classical education.