Horizon charter schools get three eviction notices

Published: Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 - 11:12 pm

Eviction notices posted at three Horizon Charter School sites Monday morning have hundreds of families worried about the future of their children's education.

Horizon – a public, tuition-free school – is behind on payments that include leases on sites in Elk Grove, Rocklin and Auburn, said William Brockmeyer, the president of Group Access Inc., a San Jose company that subleased the three properties to the charter school system.

Officials at Horizon Charter School dispute that statement, saying the school is not behind on its contractual payments. "Additional fees, not in the contracts, have been billed to Horizon," the charter system said in a press release Thursday evening.

The last few months have been tumultuous for many families with students in Horizon Charter Schools. The 30-day notices come on the heels of the abrupt closure of the Rocklin site in October and the announcement that an accelerated learning program at Horizon's Lincoln site will close on Dec. 21. The two closures affected about 470 students.

The moves have angered parents who have contacted media, written letters of protest and showed up at school board meetings. Thursday night, a small but vocal group of parents appeared at the Horizon Charter school board meeting.

One woman, attendees said, read a seven-page letter put together by a parent group. The letter questioned the use of school funds and the ethics of school officials.

"We are astonished that we have now learned that over $1 million of our public ADA (average daily attendance funding) was spent building out a leased facility at 290 Technology (in Rocklin) that has been abandoned," the letter states.

"To say we are outraged by these events and the inaction of the board is an understatement."

Brenda Clark, Horizon administrative support supervisor, told The Bee there would be no additional comment about the eviction notices from the school beyond the half-page news release. She confirmed that Horizon Charter Schools CEO Craig Heimbichner is out of town on vacation and was not available for comment.

According to the Horizon press release, the staff was instructed to remove the 30-day notices at the three sites and that the issue was being referred to legal counsel.

Brockmeyer would not disclose how much the school owes his company, saying only that "it's not a great sum of money." A variety of bills have not been paid and they are not all for rent, he said.

A letter from Heimbichner to staff and families in November said the charter school pays $18,000 a month to the landlord for the Rocklin site.

Brockmeyer said the school has refused to speak to him about the matter. "This is an easy problem to fix and all they need to do is communicate with us," he said of the pay-or-quit notices.

The Auburn, Elk Grove and Rocklin sites were set up by Group Access as distance learning centers, where students attend part time, said Brockmeyer. He said the company also provides technology and classroom equipment for the charter system.

It's unclear how many students would be affected if the three locations that were given notice are closed. Horizon Charter School officials would not release that information when asked on Friday.

Carol Repetti said parents of students in the accelerated learning academies at Rocklin and Lincoln were continually told those programs would not be closed down.

"I feel for the families in Auburn and Elk Grove, who are probably being told the same things we were being told," she said. "There seems to be something really fishy going on."

Parents of students at the Rocklin school were outraged in October when they received less than a week's notice to either stay with Horizon in its home-school option or to find their children another school. By Nov. 2, 75 of the 390 students at the school had left, according to a letter from Heimbichner.

Then, earlier this month, the system announced it would close its entire accelerated learning program, including a program for kindergarten through second grade at the Lincoln Life Center. That left another 80 students without a school, parents said.

Horizon has additional sites in Placerville, Roseville and Sacramento. Data from the California Department of Education say it serves 1,428 students.

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Read more articles by Diana Lambert

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