By Steve Patterson and Justin Udo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Shock turns to anger in Northern Liberties.

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Parents with children enrolled at Walter D. Palmer Leadership Partners Charter School got word over the holiday break that the school would shut down for good.

On Monday, parents protested that move as teachers cleared out their classrooms.

Those teachers all thought they were employed last week and discovered over the weekend that was not the case.

“You have a charter school that is in financial chaos – even after millions and millions of dollars that have been provided,” says School District of Philadelphia Spokesperson Fernando Gallard.

Gallard says placing the blame is easy – it’s on the school.

“This is a charter school that has not really worked out for kids,” he says.

On Saturday, a letter went home to the parents of nearly 700 K through 8 students that the school was shutting down. The reason? Financial.

In May, the Pa. Supreme Court ruled the charter school owed $1.5 million to the School District of Philadelphia for enrolling nearly twice as many students as its charter allowed.

The board’s own hired financial advisor even admitted that, when creditors and other costs are added to that, the deficit hole is far deeper.

“All and all, I would say it’s at least $5 – maybe 6 – million. That’s before the bond debt, which is $9 million,” says attorney Jack Pund.

Palmer officials argue a lot of schools operate with deep deficits, but it’s the way the Philadelphia School District wants its money back that’s causing the abrupt closure.

“Twenty-five-thousand a month? We wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” says David Weathington, of the charter school.

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Instead, the board says the bill would be $250,000 a month.

“They really hit us at the core. And they knew that, because they want the money back. They want those kids back. They want that $17 million back,” Weathington says.

Jihan Pauling who’s son Jaiden attended Walter Palmer says this abrupt closing is hard for her whole family.

“It’s very disheartening. I’ve been depressed all weekend. He’s feels as though no school wants him. He’s a great learner and now he’s like discouraged about school.”

As KYW Newsradio’s Justin Udo reports, the parents and students who gathered in front of the school left with more questions than answers.

“I am very frustrated. There was not enough communication between the school and the parents of the school.”

Sonya Carrol says the timing of the closure leaves her without a way to get her daughter’s records or the ability to start contacting potential schools.

“This was just completely ridiculous to close a school during a winter break.”

Sonya’s daughter Melody was a fourth grader at Walter Palmer.

She says she loves her school and she’s scared about packing up and going to a school in the middle of the year.

“I’m hoping that they can teach me like this school has been teaching me and I can learn more like I was learning at this school.”

Many of the parents who came out say Walter Palmer and the Philadelphia School District have been little to no help throughout this tough process.

 

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