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South Salt Lake • Aimee Devine's classroom showed all the trappings of the last week of school on Thursday.
A handwritten note on the white board said, "The last lesson ... Engineering!" And Devine's students were voting on whether to play a game of Heads Up Seven Up or listen to their teacher read a book.
Alianza Academy, a charter school with two campuses in Granite School District's boundaries, opened in 2011, touting a technology-enhanced education with an eye toward teaching racially diverse and low-income students.
But what would have been the school's fifth year will end Friday just three days after students returned from summer break.
"It's really sad," Devine said. "This school is a haven for kids who are different."
After being put on probation last year due to concerns about its test scores and budget, Alianza was one of two charter schools tapped last week for termination by the state Charter School Board. The board's decision was preliminary, with the option to request a hearing and appeal the closure.
Administrators at the Wasatch Institute of Technology, the second school facing closure, elected to voluntarily suspend their charter. But Alianza Academy, which operates campuses in West Valley City and South Salt Lake, was expected to continue operations.
"We are planning on opening our doors and appealing," Alianza Academy Executive Director Brian Babb said last week.
The school opened on Wednesday, but the appeal went up in smoke after too few students arrived for classes.
Like a run on a bank, Babb said, the charter was forced to close down after news of a pending termination prompted parents to withdraw their children.
"The fear in response to that article made it impossible to have the student body we need," he said.
Parents were informed of the closure in an email late Wednesday night.
Babb said 340 children were enrolled for the 2015-2016 school year, and the school's budget could operate with a minimum of 290 students. But only 270 students were left by the first day of school.
The staff is working with other charters to help relocate children, Babb said, and many are expected to return to traditional public schools. "Every student has a right to return to their school district and rejoin their public school," he said.
Lisa Middlemas, whose two sons have attended the school since its founding in 2011, said the announcement was a "total shock."
"You just have the rug pulled out from under you," she said. "The whole morning was pretty much full of tears at the school."
She said she appreciated the small class sizes and individualized instruction at Alianza Academy. And she was glad her son, who is mixed-race, could attend a school with a diverse student body.
"I personally love the demographics of having a higher minority population," Middlemas said. "You just don't get that in Utah."
But she also acknowledged that the school experienced "growing pains."
It was hard for the school to find a staff tht fits the charter's "vision," she said, which led to high turnover in teachers when one of her sons was in fourth grade.
"He had three different teachers all year because two teachers quit," she said.
Alianza Academy was put on probation last year by the state Charter School Board due to low test scores and problems with its budget, contracts and special education services. The school hired a new executive director Babb and was in the process of correcting other problems as part of its probation.
But Babb said the charter school board's action stoked a panic that ended any chance to maintain operations.
"We didn't get the opportunity to make our case," he said. "The way in which that decision was made and released to the press really circumvented our due process rights."
Middlemas said the 2014-2015 school year was "phenomenal," and parents were optimistic that the school had found its footing.
She said her family intended to stay with Alianza Academy until her sons aged out after eighth grade, but would likely return to enrolling at their neighborhood school in Sandy.
"I think we're going to stick with public, because I don't want to have to go through something like this again," she said.