Harriet Tubman School of Science and Technology leased a building at 953 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC

New charter school in Atlanta won’t open this year because of building permit woes

A new charter school in southwest Atlanta won’t open this year because of problems with its building.

The Harriet Tubman School of Science and Technology expected to open Monday, but the school did not obtain a certificate of occupancy from the City of Atlanta for its building at 953 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. 

On Friday, the school and the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia, which authorized the charter school, announced the school has been unable to resolve the problem and will delay opening for one year. 

“Despite significant due diligence of all parties, questions regarding local compliance standards remain unresolved. All parties agree that student safety and welfare is of paramount importance,” the school and state officials said in a joint statement. “Regrettably, it does not appear that a timely resolution will be reached.”

The city said it couldn’t grant a certificate until the building is brought up to code. In an Aug. 2 letter to the school, the city asked the school to show it had met safety standards related to smoke detectors and accessible exits, among other requirements. 

That sent officials scurrying this week to find a solution or an alternative location for the school.

Officials with the State Charter Schools Commission gave Tubman leaders until noon Friday “to provide written confirmation from the City of Atlanta that they will be able to begin school on Monday.”

The Tubman school told the state it planned to enroll up to 200 students in kindergarten through third grade during its first year. The building it leased has been used as a school previously.

The school said it is “in communication” with families to make sure children who had planned to enroll find another school and “to minimize the disruption to students and families.” 

Atlanta Public Schools has its first day of school on Aug. 12.

In a written statement earlier this week, the school’s staff administrator Bobby Pickett said the building has been approved by other agencies, including the Georgia Department of Education. 

“We have had several inspections on our property and the school was named safe and operable,” she said.

The state commission authorized the creation of the charter school last summer. The Tubman school’s leaders had initially sought authorization from APS, but the district denied the charter application citing concerns about the school’s organizational structure and funding model, among other issues. 

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