A charter school in East Tampa is retreating from its mission to provide an alternative to struggling elementary schools in that community.
East Tampa Academy will become a preschool after the summer instead of the K-2 school that was launched in 2017. Students can attend under the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program.
The school, housed in a community center a short walk from Potter Elementary, was conceived after Potter scored five consecutive F grades from the state. Teacher turnover was especially high in 2016-17.
Potter, at 3224 E Cayuga St., has since improved its grades under the leadership of veteran principal Sharon Waite.
But East Tampa Academy’s principal, Ronald Anderson, said neighborhood families are still looking for options in their children’s crucial early years. “They want something as an alternative,” Anderson said Monday.
Anderson said budgetary concerns led the school’s governing board to take action. The pandemic hurt enrollment in a school that was small by design. State records show that in 2020-21, there were 49 students, down from 72 the previous year. Now there are 55, Anderson said.
East Tampa Academy also was caught, as all charter schools were, with the high cost of hiring armed security after the 2018 mass killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. The school held fundraisers to fill the gap, but did not raise enough money, Anderson said.
A letter went out to parents in March, letting them know the charter school staff and school district will assist them in finding spots in neighborhood or magnet schools.
Private schools also are an option if families wish to make use of a growing state-funded scholarship program.
Looking ahead, Anderson said that, under its new format, the school will seek to expand its preschool program. He also said it is possible that a private elementary school will open at that location.