Private church-based school forced to close down

Private church-based school forced to close down »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A private school with about 50 students is being forced to shut down, leaving worried families and heartbroken staff.

School officials said Grace Assembly of God in Oildale wants classes closed by the end of the month. On Friday, a pastor said the church has no comment on the situation.

Parents contacted Eyewitness News after getting letters saying the Grace Christian Academy will be closed by May 30.

"Only 30 days doesn't give me enough time to find a daycare I feel comfortable with," parent Rosie Corrales said. She has a 7-year-old daughter in the small school, housed in the church building on McCray Street.

Principal Donna Coe said she's run the school in that location for about four years. She was tearful over the prospect of having to shut down, especially so quickly.

"The saddest part about this is we really don't understand why we're asked to leave," she said. Coe said she doesn't understand the three reasons a pastor gave her.

"One, was because the school doesn't make any money. Two, was that we've had a turnover with employees," Coe said. "And, three, because I didn't submit my license to the church."

The principal said she can't do that.

The school currently has 22 preschool students, 20 kids in kindergarten through fourth grade, and eight to 10 children in an after-school program, Coe said. And, the principal said it's been her mission to serve a special segment of students.

"So many broken families with so many single moms, so many grandparents," Coe said. "And, these are the kinds of kids that we deal with here."

She said the very small classes and special attention are what these children need. Some parents say the kids are upset at news their school will close.

"My son threw up this morning because he was completely, just devastated," parent Christina Moreno told Eyewitness News. "These are little kids, they don't understand."

Parents said they tried to understand, and attempted to get answers from the church. Corrales said they asked a pastor if parents could talk to the church board but was told that would be pointless.

"That's the final decision," Corrales said they were told. "There's nothing basically you can do."

Moreno said they got "no answers" from a pastor.

The parents also say they didn't get enough advance warning about the school closure, and it should not shut down so soon.

"They're saying we have to be out by May 30," Moreno said, "but the administration and parents signed a contract saying that the school here doesn't technically end until Aug. 13."

Corrales said if the academy would stay open until mid-August, she thinks then public school programs might be available for her child.

Moreno doesn't want public school for her three kids, and she worries about finding another private school she can afford. Coe said most of the Grace Christian Academy students were on scholarships or partial scholarships.

But, the parents said the most important thing is they will miss the programs the academy gave their kids.

Coe said she was almost ready to retire, and had lined up an assistant director who could take over the program. She worries about continuing her mission.

"I almost feel like a wife that found out she has a terminal disease, and she has to find somebody to take care of her family," the principal said.

Grace Assembly of God Executive Pastor Tom Queally confirmed on Friday that the school will shut down, but told Eyewitness News, on advice of their lawyer, the church has no comment on the closure.

One parent said she's devastated, and Coe shares that feeling.

"It's a very sad day for us," the principal said. "And it's a very sad day for the kids."