Students and parents will have to wait several weeks for a decision after a hearing to decide PACE Academy’s future came to a close Tuesday.
Tuesday was the fourth day of the appeal hearing after the State Board of Education voted to revoke the Carrboro school’s charter in May.
Administrative Law Judge Phil Berger Jr. will release his decision by August 13.
The state board originally voted not to renew the charter in February 2014, citing the school’s financial problems, poor testing results compared to students at surrounding schools and “persistent patterns of noncompliance.”
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However, the school appealed to gain a short-term charter and was able to stay open for the 2014-15 school year. Now the school faces closure once more.
Andrew Cox, who works for the state Department of Public Instruction, testified Tuesday and said the school’s attendance reports were a big area of concern. DPI ordered headcounts and attendance audits of the school to compare to the school’s self-reported attendance counts.
DPI officials visited the school for four headcounts and found several discrepancies. On one occasion, Cox said 29 students were marked as present in the school’s system, but were not present during DPI’s visit on the same day.
Phillip Adkins, who is representing PACE Academy, said these discrepancies are due to PACE’s use of modified schedules, accommodating students who are working outside of the school for personal reasons, such as anxiety.
Carol Ann Hudgens of the state’s Exceptional Children division, who testified at the hearing Thursday, said it was unclear if students’ Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, were being followed.
According to PACE, half of its students are exceptional children, meaning they have physical, mental or social disabilities.
Adkins said the school has to operate differently to account for the special needs of its students.
“DPI has one view of what a student looks like and the reality at PACE is they don’t look like that,” Adkins said.
Chelsea Lovvorne, a graduate of PACE Academy who has dyslexia, said she doesn’t think she would have graduated high school without PACE.
“People at PACE actually care about the children,” she said. “They care about making sure that everybody doesn’t get left behind.”
Jerry Garfunkel, who currently attends PACE Academy said that before he came to PACE, he was failing math. At PACE, he was able to get more time with his teachers. They really took time to work with him, he said, and he went from an “F” to an “A” in math.
“The school understands how some people learn, and it helps everyone,” he said. “Me and my friends won’t succeed at any other school.”