By Mike DeNardo, Syma Chowdhry, Justin Udo and Diana Rocco
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Students arriving at a troubled Philadelphia charter high school Monday morning were told to go home, and informed that the school will be closing for good.
Some parents got “robo” calls Sunday night telling them that the Walter D. Palmer High School, in Frankford, would be closed and that they shouldn’t send their children there Monday.
But those students who did arrive found no teachers there, and they were told to go home.
This is the latest chapter in the Palmer charter school saga. The school was approved for 675 students in grades K through 8, but enrolled 1,300 in grades K through 12.
And with the Philadelphia school district required to pay for only 675 students, Palmer didn’t know how long he could afford to keep the high school (at the former St. Bartholomew school, on Harbison Avenue) open.
Currently, 300 students go to Palmer High, and they will now have to find a new school.
Palmer, the school’s founder, says parents should have seen the inevitable.
“Well, they basically knew it was coming. They didn’t know when it was coming,” he told KYW Newsradio this morning.
Arlene Esquilin, a parent, says she was blindsided nonetheless.
“I work in a hospital where I can’t be taking days off,” she said today. “And now I’m here, losing a day of work, where I probably have to buy some more school uniforms? I don’t know where I’m going to put her.”
Parent Theresa Dawson is the mother of two 11th graders.
She says the school suggested a high school in West Philadelphia, but:
“That’s not where I want my child to go. Now it’s really up to me to find her somewhere to go,” Dawson said.
The Walter Palmer Charter school has a separate K-8 school totaling 1,300 students, but the district says it has a cap of 675 students.
“My hands are tied. I’ve exhausted almost every court,” Palmer said.
Earlier this month, the K-8 school held a lottery leaving dozens of students to find a new school.
Palmer says he fought to avoid these cuts.
“It’s very traumatic for me personally because, I’m very personal about these children,” Palmer said.
“They went over their enrollment numbers and here they are in a situation that financially they cannot stay open,” Philadelphia School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard said.
School District officials say the school was chartered to be a K-8, not a high school.
“They did not have the funds, they were operating above their charter,” Gallard said.
Palmer’s elementary school, in Northern Liberties, remains open, but the district is moving to revoke its charter on academic and financial grounds.
At a very heated and emotional information session Monday night, the parents found out their options.
“Every neighborhood high school is available to Walter Palmer families. In addition there are a number of citywide and special admission schools that are also available to Palmer families if they are able to submit records to the district,” Julian Thompson with the Philadelphia School District.
Many parents and students say they are running into problems getting their records and information from Walter Palmer Charter.
School officials say they’re doing the best they can to service the families.
Students were cleaning out their lockers and wondering what comes next.
“We haven’t even decided yet completely what are we going to do,” a student said.
Many students in their senior year say they feel let down by what’s happening and graduating from a new school just won’t feel right.