Students turned away from school on first day - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Students turned away from school on first day

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The hundreds of students who showed up for classes in Riverdale on Monday, only to be turned away, will have a few more days of summer vacation.

The Utopian Academy for the Arts, a state approved charter school, is apparently at odds with the city of Riverdale. School administrators say they were told the building was not up to code and they required a business license to operate.

Lerin Barnes, attorney for the city of Riverdale, says the Clayton County School Board voted Monday night to allow the charter school to legally occupy the building.

Barnes hopes the children can begin classes on Monday.

About 300 students were turned away from school on what should have been the first day of classes Monday. It is the latest round in the ongoing battle between Academy officials, the city and school board members who have denied Academy founders request for a county charter on three separate occasions.

"This morning we had plans to open up this school. Now we have about 300 students coming to this school and we couldn't take the chance of having the children in the building and having the fire department come and say 'you are in an illegal situation. You have to take the children out of the building.' So, that's why we made the decision to stand out here with our teachers and staff and explain to the parents why we could not receive their children this morning," said Principal Fred Birkett on Monday.

The Georgia Charter Schools Commission granted Utopian Academy last October only to be told last week by the local fire marshal that they could not open Monday without a business license. Academy officials say they were also told the building isn't up to code. School officials say it all boils down to local politics.

"We went to the state board of education and we asked them whether or not we need a business license and they said no you don't need a business license you are a public charter school," said Birkett.

Faculty leaving a meeting with city officials Monday morning tell FOX 5 News that it was a disappointing way to start the school year.

"We were expecting to get started with our students. The students were very excited. Everyone was dressed and ready to start the school year off, you know, with a bang," said teacher Ebony Craft.

Academy officials say the state has signed off on everything and claim they are being targeted because they are not a traditional public school.

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