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Published: Saturday, 9/15/2012

Charter school shut by city after safety check

South Toledo building failed inspections

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A new community charter school that opened Aug. 28 in the former Masonic Temple in South Toledo was shut down days later by the city after failing to pass building and fire inspections.

Academy of Educational Excellence, 4747 Heatherdowns Blvd., was closed for two weeks, but will reopen Monday after obtaining a temporary occupancy permit.

Following an inspection earlier in the day, city officials on Friday issued a partial, 30-day occupancy permit allowing children and staff into the renovated building's gymnasium, cafeteria, and kitchen.

However, the charter school will not be allowed to use classrooms and other spaces in the building until deficiencies are addressed and the facility is brought up to code, said Jen Sorgenfrei, spokesman for the city of Toledo.

"The bottom line is that the department of inspection and the fire department are not going to allow students in any school facilities if there are not adequate building integrity and adequate fire suppression systems to ensure the safety of students," she said.

According to Ann Harris, founder of the kindergarten-through-third grade academy, the building opened as planned on Aug. 28 with about 70 students and was told to vacate later that week following an inspection of the fire alarm system.

She blamed the abrupt closure by the city on Aug. 31 on communication problems between the project's architects and contractors and inspectors with city fire department and building inspection office.

"I think one of the problems is that we didn't sign the lease until the third week of June," she said. "There was miscommunication problems with the city."

Mrs. Harris said the closure lead to parents pulling about 20 students out of the school. She said she hopes to persuade those parents to re-enroll their children.

"I am going to do what I can to get some of them back," she said.

Mrs. Harris said the school day will be extended by 15 minutes and extra days could be added at the end of the scholastic year to make up for the lost time.

Classrooms will be relocated to the gymnasium and cafeteria, she said, separated by partitions.

"I think we can maintain some of the learning and not have the students in their individual classrooms," Mrs. Harris said.

The community charter school is occupying about half of the former 54,000-square-foot Masonic Center, which had been vacant since 2007 when the Scottish Rite Valley of Toledo moved to a building in Arrowhead Park in Maumee.

The academy is the second charter school to have operations halted because of building-code issues with the city.

Horizon Science Academy was denied an occupancy permit for its new kindergarten-through-12th-grade school inside the former Food Town in West Toledo's DeVeaux Village, at Sylvania Avenue and Douglas Road. City inspectors found inoperative fire alarm systems, causing the school to delay its planned Sept. 4 opening.

The charter school opened Tuesday in the new facility, moving from 425 Jefferson Ave. in downtown Toledo, according to a news release issued by the academy owners. 

Another Horizon school, at 630 S. Reynolds Rd., was also denied an occupancy permit by the city because unlicensed contractors were working in the building. 

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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