Visalia Christian School to Close

FRESNO, Calif.

Parents met with school officials on Tuesday night, in hopes of keeping the school open but were told the decision is final. After the meeting, which was closed to the media, parent Trish Bercynski told us; "My heart is sad, I am confused."

The shutdown is effective at the end of the school year in June. Parent Deanna Fox was in tears after the meeting. "I'm terribly sad. I have three children here. And we have to look for another school. This is the best school for my children. All of the families would say this. This is a wonderful Christian school and it shouldn't be closing down."

Valley Christian School is a ministry of the First Assembly of God Church in Visalia. School officials wouldn't go on camera but told us enrollment has dropped from 400 students two years ago, to 161 today. Not enough to keep operating, even with tuition at more than five thousand dollars a year for each student.

The Church is suggesting an alternative. Valley Charter School is opening in another location in buildings owned by the First Assembly of God Church. But unlike the private Christian school, the charter cannot not charge tuition, it's basically a public school and will not be allowed to teach religion.

That's why many parents who came to this meeting are not interested. They say they want their children to learn the Bible. While there are several other Christian schools in Visalia and Tulare parents told us the waiting lists are long. The Superintendent of the Visalia Unified School District told Action News there is plenty of room in public schools for the Visalia Christian Students.

The First Assembly of God Church in Visalia is in the midst of a scandal of sorts. Last December a former employee was arrested and charged with embezzling more than $2 two million in church funds. Church leaders told parents the embezzlement had nothing to do with the closure of the school.

In addition to impacting parents and students, the closure of Visalia Christian means 27 teachers and other employees will be looking for jobs.

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