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Enterprise, Westminster charter schools fight closure in court

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Westminster Community Charter School
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The Buffalo School Board may have ordered Enterprise and Westminster Community charter schools to close, but the two are fighting back in court.This is an unusual situation, since the two schools were chartered by the school board, not by Albany. They are the only two of the state's 351 public charter schools slated for closure.

Saying Enterprise and Westminister were lower in achievement than public city schools, board members voted March 31 to close, effective at the end of this school year. Although, Westminster students might stay in that building because the city owns it.

Enterprise Board Chair Thomas Ess said that wasn't fair to the 1,000 students, because it's hard to measure achievement in the middle of a pandemic.

"We've had no ability over the last two years, really, to have any type of academic standard that is equal," Ess said. "We've been in a pandemic. We've had no ability to show our work, other than internal measures, which we've provided."

He said Enterprise's internal measurements showed improvement and the decision to close "was made in haste."

Ess said it also leaves the K-8 students in a bind, since the decision was made after alternatives had passed.

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Credit Enterprise Charter School / Facebook
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"We are very concerned about the students and their ability to find any type of other placement, given the timing of the decision," he said. "They are not going to fare well through this transition because they have not been given a chance to find another school, go into the lottery of other charter schools. The reality is that we've been robbed of that opportunity."

In court papers, lawyers for the two schools argue there are rules to follow for closing a charter school, including doing it in public, and the board and the administration just didn't do it right.

Asked about the court cases, the school board said it hasn't received copies of the lawsuit, so it had no comment.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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