AURORA, Colo. — A group of parents and students gathered outside the Aurora Community School Tuesday. The new building is nearly finished, hallways and classrooms sparkling new. Windows offering a glimpse to parents and students of the inside.
But the students will not step foot inside ACS. before it even opened, the school was shut down.
Families and teachers protested the closure of the charter school in late June. It was approved just one year earlier by the Aurora Board of Education as an alternative option for children in the public school system.
"This school means everything to me," said Sharee Talbot "We love our kids here."
Parents upset with the closure shared their hopes for the school including an education program with a diverse faculty and staff, more reflective of the students entering the classroom. They also saw the school as a safe-haven for children with autism or difficulty socially adjusting to a classroom environment.
"We have students that are disadvantaged; we have students that are of color; we have students that have special needs that depended on this school and this building," said Christina Cimino, a parent of a child with autism. "They planted the seed and now my son has a love of learning. He's growing, he's learning. He loves to go to school."
The school board unanimously revoked the charter for the Aurora Community School after it failed to meet the June 1 deadline for completing its building. But according to board members, several other crucial deadlines were not met.
"They didn't communicate with the district about anything related to COVID, any hardships or burdens, and needing to extend their deadlines," explained Kayla Armstrong-Romero, the president of the Aurora Board of Education. In her decision with the board, it was about contracts and deals. "ACS was not adhering to a two-year budget and did not occupy its permanent location by the agreed-upon deadlines"
Once a charter is revoked, the decision is final.
"I know that it's tough, being a month or so away from the start of school," she said. "but unfortunately that's the decision that was made, and the board is not in a position to reverse."
The school had a rocky start without a building. Many classes meeting in the basement of a nearby church and hotel ballroom. The school also failed to enroll its minimum number of students, requesting extensions to recruit new students.
However, with one month until school reopens, parents at the school have few options for their children who were enrolled. Though public school is available regardless of registration, many parents at the ACS are disenchanted with the public system.
"Our mission is to serve every single kid, regardless of race or background, but not just serve them. We want them to be agents of change," said Ally Lewis, a teacher at Aurora Community School. "Shutting us down four weeks before school starts due to a building technicality makes no sense to me."
Now parents, students, and teachers must find new classrooms as their former new school building sits idol.
"My heart breaks for my parents and my kids and my families and my community and my team members and I'm very sad."