San Jose's Promise Academy won't open this year

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Plans for San Jose's newest K-8 STEM-driven charter school have come to a halt and now the blame game is in full swing.

Promise Academy was scheduled to open this month, but those plans were dashed last week when officials with the San Jose Unified School District informed academy administrators that it would not be providing the school with space due to concerns over low enrollment.

"Let us open and let us prove that we can make this high-performing school happen," said San Jose resident Yolando Bernal-Samano, who had enrolled her child at Promise.

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Proposition 39 requires school districts to make facilities available to public charter schools serving students who reside in the district.

However, the district says the academy failed to provide a fully executed agreement by the deadline last spring.

"The reason that they're unable to open is of their failure to secure the necessary enrollment that is tied to the lease agreement, in the sense that the lease agreement specifies what type of space they want," says Ben Spielberg, SJUSD public engagement officer.

"If they're unable to secure the necessary enrollment and are constantly changing their estimates of what enrollment is, that makes it very challenging for them to decide to execute a lease agreement," he said.

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Academy officials offered a differing view, saying they asked for modifications to the square footage they were slotted to use at Allen at Steinbeck, but didn't hear back all summer long.

"We were just waiting for a response from the district. We've been emailing, calling, just anyway that we can get any responses," said Promise assistant principal Liana Pellegrino.

Parents are now scrambling to find alternative schools for their children.
"Just because I can't afford to live in South San Jose where they actually have good schools doesn't mean that my kids also shouldn't get a good education," said San Jose resident Adelita Gomez Alvarez.

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Mayor Sam Liccardo weighed in Tuesday and expressed his disappointment over the district's handling of Promise's application.

"Rather than continuing to seek every possible roadblock, San Jose Unified officials should recognize that Promise Academy can become both a great asset to our City and a pathway to opportunity for San Jose's children," said Liccardo.

Promise has filed multiple lawsuits against the district in the past and is now weighing its future options.

"A lot of our kids are being effected by stall tactics from the district... that's what really it boils down to," says Bernal-Samano.

SJUSD officials are encouraging affected families to get in touch with an enrollment specialist at district headquarters.

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