- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

Several students from a D.C. school whose charter was revoked in September by the Board of Education have not yet enrolled in other schools, and the school system's efforts to track them down have been unsuccessful, sources tell The Washington Times.
Only 68 of the 170 students at the New Vistas Preparatory Public Charter School in Northwest are now known to be attending other schools, more than a month after schools reopened for the new academic year and almost a month after the charter school closed its doors.
Parents of four students have confirmed they are not at school, school board records show. The status of several other students is not known because they don't have phone numbers where they can be reached, or they have not returned calls from the school system, a source in the school system said, adding it was possible that many of these students were not at school.
Linda McKay, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said that it was likely that some students from New Vistas had enrolled in other public or private schools without going through the school system, but that details would not be available until after Friday, when the school system will generate lists of students in both public and charter schools.
"By Friday, if we find a child is not enrolled, we will follow through with truancy cases wherever applicable," Ms. McKay said.
On Sept. 5, the D.C. school board voted to revoke the charter of New Vistas Preparatory Public Charter School over charges of mismanagement. The school, located in the 100 block of Peabody Street Northwest, came under fire because its curriculum was not up to par and the school did not have enough books and desks for its students.
Board member Julie Mikuta said the school had also not been in compliance on its special-education services. "There was also some evidence of fiscal impropriety," she said.
Two other schools, World Public Charter School and Milburn Alternative High School, also faced the threat of having their charters revoked but obtained an interim stay from the D.C. Court of Appeals. Students continue to attend these schools.
Students at New Vistas, which opened in September 1999, attended grades seven through 12. During the hearings before the board voted to close it down, board members said they were not convinced that the school's officials would be able to steer the school toward success if they allowed it to remain open.
Yesterday the school, with its bright red lockers and doors, was empty except for an official who was closing up. Since the charter has been revoked, "the school no longer exists," Ms. McKay said.
She said that when the school closed, parents were told of all openings in the public schools system, including in their neighborhood schools and charter schools. "Most wanted their children in charter schools," she said.
School board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz said the school system had given all parents the opportunity to place their child in another school. "Since this is a high school, there is a possibility that some of the children have dropped out," she said.
Some parents whose children were at the school had strongly opposed the board's decision to close it down. At the meeting last month where the board voted to close the school, Sylvia Johnson, whose daughter attended New Vistas, pleaded for the school to be given a second chance. "Give us probation, and let us work it out. God gives everyone a chance," she said.
Robert Cane, executive director of FOCUS (Friends of Choice in Urban Schools), said that several charter high schools still had openings, and that his group had pointed several parents from New Vistas toward such schools. "But we have not got any calls from parents from quite a while," he said.
Mrs. Mikuta said the fact that they had not heard from several parents could also be a strong indicator that the children had found placements in other schools. "We would have heard back from them if they had not been placed," she said.
Dropouts and truancy have been an ongoing problem in D.C. schools. In the academic year 1999-2000, the latest for which figures were available, 6.84 percent of students dropped out of the city's public schools, a schools spokeswoman said.
A spokeswoman for the school board said Mrs. Cafritz met with D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey recently to discuss steps to increase efforts to fight truancy.

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