Renewal for Downtown Fresno charter school denied

Thursday, May 10, 2018
Renewal for Downtown Fresno charter school denied
Kepler Neighborhood School in Downtown Fresno is closing.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Kepler Neighborhood School in Downtown Fresno is closing.

Fresno Unified Board Members voted Wednesday night not to renew the current charter for the school on Stanislaus and Broadway.

The board agreed with The California Charter School Association that Kepler has not been able to help students meet the minimum academic benchmarks.

"We look back at the past five years of how they have done in their student achievement, and unfortunately Kepler has underperformed with schools in their neighborhood and Fresno Unified and similar schools," said Melissa Dutra, Instructional Superintendent of Fresno Unified.

For the last five years, Fresno unified says Kepler had underperformed in math and language arts assessments compared to its neighborhood schools, like Lowell and Jefferson Elementary.

"So when we follow education code, and we see that kids are not getting access to grade level standards, grade level curriculum, they are not moving the way they need to that impacts kids in a negative way," said Dutra.

But the Executive Director of Kepler Neighborhood School, Dr. Margaret Ameel, says other performance rates were overlooked such as the school's scores for 7th and 8th-grade students outperforming other middle schools.

"We implemented a number of processes; we brought on a dean of students to really address the culture and combine more of an academic focus on our culture. We brought on a specialist on curriculum instruction," said Dr. Ameel.

For the past year, Dr. Ameel says Kepler has been working on a five year plan to continue improvements for the downtown charter school.

She is now starting the appeal process with the Fresno County Office of Education, in hopes of keeping the school open for the next school year.

"Based on the information we documented and supplied throughout our renewal process. We feel very confident that the county is going to take it very seriously," Dr. Ameel added.

The process includes a 30-day review by F.C.O.E. with a public hearing. After that, a decision of the school's future will be made within 30 days.

The building is owned by Kepler and what will happen with it all depends on what final decision on the appeal.

Both the school and the district will work with parents on options on where to send their students for the next school year.