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Financial shortfalls shutter charter school

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – A St. Louis charter school will close its doors immediately due to a lack of funding.

Missouri Baptist University had already said it would not sponsor the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy past this year. But the university recently became aware that the school had not been paying rent at at least one of its two campuses, and could not pay electrical, security, food service or transportation bills. According to a letter from MBU president R. Alton Lacey, the Academy's governing structure was also in disarray and had not complied with state corporate law.

The decision by the university and the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to terminate the charter early allows the St. Louis Public Schools to immediately step in and operate Lyle's two campuses. The district will not be responsible for any of the outstanding debt, said Rick Sullivan, the president of the district's appointed board.

"We were happy to provide people to help assist in this transition, but the cost of operation over the next 45 days should be on a break-even basis given the revenues that we're projecting from the state." The board agreed to take over the Academy the same night it approved a plan to close a $58 million gap in its 2011 budget.

Three other charter schools in St. Louis have closed since the General Assembly authorized them in 1998, but the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy is the first to close before the end of a school year. The school is named for the founder of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority for African-American women, and a chapter of the sorority first founded the Academy in 2000. It was viewed as a model school until an ugly legal battle between the sorority and a former management company, Imagine Schools.

Read the letter from Missouri Baptist president R. Alton Lacey stripping the Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Academy of its charter (PDF document)