Pueblo alternative high school to close despite late academic ga - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Pueblo alternative high school to close despite late academic gains

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The Youth and Family Academy in Pueblo will not open for the 2017-2018 school year The Youth and Family Academy in Pueblo will not open for the 2017-2018 school year

An alternative high school in Pueblo that serves the community's most vulnerable students will not open its doors this fall. Board members of the Youth And Family Academy (YAFA) tell News the decision was taken out of their hands by state chartering authorities.

Parents and students just learned about the impending closure this week. As an alternative education campus, YAFA serves the highest risk students which includes previous drop outs and students were expelled.  Some struggle with substance abuse, others with pregnancy or homelessness.

"We had a lot of problems just with the big schools, there wasn't enough teaching time, one on one with students," said parent Marcus Garduno.

His son has attended for the last two years and he's seen firsthand the difference it's made.

"There's a lot more hands on with the teachers, his grades improved and her was a hair camper with what I seen."

Those smaller class sizes also helped Christine Cruz's daughter Savannah Valdez. She is enrolled in summer school trying and skip ahead a grade because she's about to miss a lot of time in class.

"She's pregnant and the teens that are pregnant, they accept them and make them feel comfortable here," Cruz said. 

"They can bring their kids and they have the nursery and everything," Valdez explained. "There's no other school that I could find that does that,  and  like that I could trust with the staff and the teachers that will take care of the baby."

The school was failing three years ago when the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) gave them a one year lease on life to show academic improvement.

To everyone's surprise, the new board of directors pulled it off and the school continued to show academic growth year after year. Board President Jan Reed explained in a statement that money trouble with the management company YAFA was paired with made things financially impossible for the school to get a new charter again this school year.

"To make a very long and complicated story short, CSI did not initially heed the repeated warnings from the YAFA board on the deeds and questionable financial practices of (the Career Building Academy)TCBA," Reed wrote in a statement to News 5.

"CSI did eventually successfully petition the Commissioner of Education to do a forensic audit and fraud investigation of TCBA, and appoint a fiduciary to handle their funds.  The costs of these actions, well exceeding six figures, would fall to the tax-payers of Colorado.  The results showed what the YAFA board was saying all along was factual.  Needless to say, TCBA's contract ended after one year of operation."

She went on to say that CSI insists that YAFA reimburse them for the debt incurred during the TCBA episode, a debt that is too large for the school to handle.

The closure is a blow to parents like Garduno who was hoping to enroll his younger son here this fall. YAFA administrators told him the 8-12 grade campus was expanding to add 6th and 7th graders.

"They said they were looking for more people to come in and stuff and I was telling people about it," he said.

It's even harder for the students like Savannah, who worries she won't be able to make the transition back into public school.

"(The YAFA staff) understand when you need something, just to be there for you in life," she said. "Now that it's closing down you're not going to be able to have those people that you've had all year."

Reed said in her statement that YAFA approached Pueblo City School District 60 to request a charter with them, but were turned down.

District spokesman Dalton Sprouse said in a statement to News 5 that they welcome the YAFA students to enroll with them. Administrators at D60 believe their Paragon Learning Center can accommodate the unique needs of the YAFA students as that school is currently is in the process of being designated an alternative education campus.

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