AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin school district is cutting ties with IDEA Public Schools.
In a surprise move, the school board voted to terminate the contract Monday night, which means IDEA Allan will close at the end of this school year. The vote was 5-4, with new Trustee Jayme Mathias leading the charge.
Before the vote, Mathias told the board, "How do we bring down the plane without anyone getting hurt?"
IDEA Allan opened this year as AISD's first in-district charter school despite a lot of push back from the community. On Monday night, Trustee Robert Schneider called the plan "poisonous and divisive."
IDEA Allan parents said the decision caught them completely off guard.
But Larkin Tackett, IDEA's executive director, told parents after the vote that the school will continue.
"We made a promise to students and families, and we're going to keep that promise," he said (see the video to the left). "And tomorrow, our teachers go back to work, our parents bring their kids to our school -- and that's going to last all the was till 2029, which is when our kindergarteners are going to graduate from college."
The original recommendation on the board's agenda was to slow down the in-district charter school's expansion plans and keep the campus contained to one building instead of moving to Eastside Memorial High School campus next school year.
The campus launched with kindergarten, first, second and sixth grade.
KXAN News toured the campus Friday.
"I think to make a decision after the school only being open just four months just really isn't fair to our families," said Tackett.
Tackett said the school has already made huge strides. When elementary students were tested at the beginning of the school year, only 7 percent were reading at grade level. The kids were tested again right before Thanksgiving and 40-percent were reading at or above grade level, according to Tackett.
He also said the sixth graders at IDEA Allan had the second highest attendance rate in the district after the first six weeks of school.
Tackett gathered up the IDEA Allan parents in a circle after the vote Monday night.
"We made a promise to our students and their families and we're going to keep that promise," Tackett told the crowd. "Tomorrow our teachers go back to work, our parents bring their students to our school, and that's going to last all the way until 2029 which is when our kindergartners are going to graduate from college."
IDEA Public Schools has made a commitment to parents to open up their own free standing charter school in Austin next school year. Many IDEA Allan parents plan to follow them there.
"I'm really excited about the fact next year as a mom and PTA president that our children are no longer the sacrificial lambs. We'll be able to have that consistency," said Brandee Davis who has a second grader at IDEA Allan.
The AISD superintendent will work with her staff to come up with an exit plan for IDEA Allan.
IDEA Allan is holding a press conference Tuesday morning where the CEO of IDEA Public Schools, Tom Torkelson, is expected to speak.
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