Charter school goes to court in quest for funds

The Palm Beach County School Board says it's protecting your taxpayer dollars by withholding about $255 thousand from a Wellington charter school it says is failing financially.

The school board is currently trying to terminate the charter agreement with Eagle Arts Academy which does not expire until June 30, 2019.

The board questions why would it give more money to a school it says has more than $1 million in debt.

The charter says what the board is doing is illegal and, in a motion, told a court that by cutting off the school from its July funds, it is essentially keeping the charter from being able to operate and thus shutting it down before an administrative court gets to rule on the termination proceedings.

The Palm Beach County School Board is asking a judge if it can withhold monthly disbursements, or put them in a court registry until the termination proceedings are complete.

"Our contract with the school district does not allow them to do what they did," said Eagle Arts Academy Executive Director  Greg Blount.

Blount says without those funds he cannot pay his staff or vendors.

"It's not just about paying the staff it's about paying vendors and preparing to open a school, so in their complaint they argue that you should be completely whole with all vendors and staff by June 30th and there's not one business in the world that does that," said Blount.

The school board's complaint said the charter still owes $750 thousand in rent, but Blount said there are negotiations underway to forgive the debt.

"We've already been in negotiations that allow us, that actually provides us, solves our issue with our fund balance, which means if we solve that then at that point we would be a viable school again once we come to terms with our landlord," added Blount.

ESJ Capital Partners, the company that owns the property in Wellington, did not provide information on whether there are any plans to forgive the debt and allow the charter to stay or move to another location or evict the charter.

The following statement was provided: "ESJ Capital Partners' priority is ensuring that parents and students receive a high-quality facility that meets their needs. Due to a current legal process, ESJ Capital Partners is focused on seeking an optimal solution that benefits the community."

In the middle of all this, parents and staff are left waiting and the start of the school year is a month away.

"Most of them have a backup plan, they are hoping to come back to Eagle Arts wherever we locate," said Blount.

The charter and school board have an appeals hearing set for August 9 and 10.

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