Threshold Academy set to close June 30

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 10:59 am on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Threshold Academy in Orleans, which charters students from the Greenville, Stanton, Sheridan and Belding areas, currently enrolls about 158 students. The school will no longer operate after June 30. — File photo

ORLEANS TOWNSHIP — When students at Threshold Academy wave goodbye to their teachers on the last day of school, they will also be saying goodbye forever to the school they have grown to love.

Threshold serves children from kindergarten through fifth grade and has been in existence for 17 years.

Central Michigan University’s Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools decided to cut ties with the Orleans school earlier this year. After fruitless attempts to find another authorizer, the public charter school will officially close on June 30.

A March 31 letter from CMU stated: “The academy has been unable to significantly improve its performance, consistently deliver a quality educational program, and meet the student academic goals contained in the Contract.”

At the April 17 school board meeting, board members decided to wait for a final attempt to find another authorizer before voting on a resolution to dissolve the school. However, at the May 15 school board meeting, it was announced the school’s last hope, Saginaw Valley State University, declined to serve as the school’s authorizer.

“We didn’t find another authorizer,” EightCAP Inc. President Dan Petersen said. “We did hear back from Saginaw Valley and they are not interested. Our best chance was that Central Michigan would grant us another contract. We were putting out feelers and didn’t have a lot of time to put an application together for other schools.”

EightCAP Inc. holds a mortgage on Threshold’s building and land in the amount of $542,980, according to EightCap Governing Board meeting minutes.

After June 30, the contract between Threshold Academy and Central Michigan University will end. The school had been working on a one-year contract with the university for four of the past five years.

Petersen said the board has not yet taken any action on a resolution to dissolve, but he fully expects that to happen at the board’s June 19 board meeting, if not sooner.

“We won’t have a contract as of June 30, but the actual dissolution date may be further in the future than that,” he said. “We are heading down that path now and are not pursuing any other authorizers.”

Petersen said the two largest difficulties in finding another authorizer were time and overcoming the stigma of being a school that had recently lost authorization by another university.

“Time is certainly a major factor in it, but the other thing is, how do you overcome something like this when one authorizing institution does not reauthorize your contract? It creates a a much higher level of difficultly to explain why your school should still be open and be authorized,” he said.

Peterson said CMU shifted its focus several years ago to authorize schools that focus on achievement, which hurt its relationship with Threshold Academy.

“CMU’s focus really shifted away from our focus, which has been serving at risk kids,” he said. “CMU’s focus has been about achievement. Without getting different kids or serving a different population … that’s not what we were in business for. It’s unfortunate.”

Of the nearly 160 students enrolled at Threshold, 92 percent qualify for free lunches while 5 percent qualify for reduced-price lunches.

Principal Victoria Simon said all necessary measures have been taken to ensure each student will find another school district to attend for the 2014-2015 school year. A meeting will be scheduled in June for parents to attend for more information about transitioning their students from the school.

“Most years, students are excited to see summer come, they are excited on that last day of school, but that’s not going to be the case this year,” Simon said. “There’s so much about this school that made it a wonderful asset to the community.”

The final day of school for students will be June 17. The last day for faculty will be June 19.

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