The American Leadership Academy Charter Elementary School was set to open in Florence Tuesday for the first day of classes to 200 excited kids. Only it didn't open, leaving parents and students upset and frustrated.
Parents and kids are in a tough spot. The American Leadership Academy has a charter high school in Queen Creek and elementary schools in Queen Creek, Gilbert and San Tan Valley.
But the state board regulating charter schools says, because the academy made serious record-keeping mistakes, it won't let the new school open.
It's empty inside, but it was supposed to be a bustling classroom on the first day of school.
Outside, a crowd of angry and disappointed parents.
"I am completely devastated that they would deny our children in this area to get the education they need. These are the future leaders of our country," says Brad Matteson, Florence dad.
Why did the Arizona state board for charter schools reject the American Leadership Academy's bid to expand into Florence?
The board says: irregularities in attendance record-keeping in its charter high school in Queen Creek. 44 students there had repeated absences. They were withdrawn from the school, then quickly re-enrolled.
The board suspected it was an attempt to game the ratings system and give the school an "A."
Instead, the board gave the academy's charter high school a "C" and wouldn't allow the new elementary school to open in Florence.
The academy responds:
"The staff of the state charter board has drawn a caricature of ALA that is inaccurate. We believe that if the board had been provided all of the information that we submitted to the staff that they would have made a different decision yesterday," said Chelsey Griess, American Leadership Academy.
But as it stands, until the state board for charter schools is satisfied the American Leadership Academy has cleaned up its act, the brand-new school in Florence may be empty all year.
The parents we spoke to do not like the public schools in Florence and don't want to send their kids there, in any event, because those schools started weeks ago. It would be hard for their kids to jump in now.
Some parents say they may home-school. Others are not exactly sure what they'll do.