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Students locked out of South Los Angeles charter school

May 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
After the weekend, hundreds of students at a local charter school were expecting to go back to class Monday. But they found the doors locked and parents had no idea why.

About 400 students were locked out of their classrooms at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter Middle School, apparently because the school cannot pay its bills. Parents say they knew the school had financial problems, but they never thought it would come to this.

"This morning I dropped my daughter off at school and proceeded to head on to work," said parent Jonelle Williams. "I got a call about 10 minutes away from here that I needed to come back because the school was locked out."

Parents, students and teachers were not informed about the lockout, and nobody was there to explain why it happened Monday morning.

The Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF) that runs the charter school and leases space from the Boys & Girls Club was having problems paying its bills.

"The lease wasn't being paid, and with this school having my dad's name, it's very difficult," said Corey Dantzler, president of the Challengers Boys & Girls Club. "I struggled with it a lot to actually have to do that."

Dantzler says within hours of locking the school's doors, he and ICEF had worked out an agreement to reopen Tuesday.

"The important thing is that doors are open now," said Melissa Japlan, chief academic officer of ICEF. "Children are going to be back in class tomorrow. School's going to resume tomorrow."

"We were told that everything was taken care of for the year," said parent Lisa Cooper-Simpson. "There was an arrangement made so that the finances would be paid. No worries, we can finish out the school year. But apparently that's not the case."

With just three weeks left in the school year, parents were worried about how their kids would take their finals to pass their classes.

"I have an eighth-grade daughter that should be graduating pretty soon," said Williams. "We don't know anything. We don't know when they can go back to school, and we need some answers."

ICEF was tight lipped about why the lockout happened in the first place.

"I really can't speak with any confidence to that," said Japlan.

The ICEF chairman is former Mayor Richard Riordan. The foundation has not commented on the lockout. The Boys and Girls Club that leases the space said that ICEF has been late on its payments for at least five months.

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