Ivy Prep's founder, Nina Gilbert (right), has reengaged with the school after pursuring other projects for a few years. Ivy Prep closed its Gwinnett County campus, surprising parents and students. In this photo, from 10 years ago, Gilbert and Ivy Prep  students were walking  to Gwinnett County Public Schools Instructional Support Center to protest a lawsuit Gwinnett Schools filed against them.
Photo: Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com
Photo: Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

What’s going on with Ivy Prep, the once-acclaimed charter school in Gwinnett County?

The leaders of Ivy Preparatory Academy have posted an inscrutable message on the website of their now-closed Gwinnett County campus that raises questions about the school’s future.

The State Charter Schools Commission in February granted a temporary closure of the Gwinnett school, the original campus of a charter system that spread to DeKalb County and still operates there.

Ivy Prep director Alisha Thomas Cromartie told parents then that the school would re-open in a new location, but she subsequently resigned, without giving a clear reason. Now, an account from a recent meeting of the Ivy Prep board suggests the school leadership has decided to decamp from Gwinnett for good.

The postage stamp sized statement on the school’s website appears to have been posted today, but its size and resolution render it difficult to read, even when zoomed at 300 percent on a 21.5-inch display. Several reporters at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with and without eyeglasses, scrutinized it, and this is what can be reported with some level of confidence: the four-paragraph statement appears to have been signed by board chairman Jason Allen and contains a paragraph that starts with the word “unfortunately,” and goes on to say “the Ivy Prep board has [four definitely illegible words] efforts to reopen a school in Gwinnett County.”

The AJC is awaiting response to an email seeking clarification that was sent today to both Allen and a public relations contractor who has represented Ivy Prep in the past. The contractor did respond that he’d sent a message to the AJC Thursday, which might have gotten lost in the ether. He said he’d follow up later today; meanwhile, the message posted for parents and the rest of the public on the school’s website remains illegible, and it apparently was posted more than a week after the board decided the school’s future.

A person who attended a meeting of the school’s board has no doubts about the board’s intent: “On Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, the Governing Board of Ivy Prep Academy announced that it would permanently close Ivy Prep Academy Gwinnett, without taking a public vote or communicating with parents who have been anxiously waiting for the school to reopen after a state-approved gap year that gave IPA Gwinnett time to restructure and relocate.”

That emailed statement is from Nina Gilbert, the founder of Ivy Prep who re-engaged with the school last year after moving on to other projects. She’s been a critic of the current leadership.

When Gilbert sent that email earlier this week, she was upset that the school’s website didn’t reflect what was said in the meeting. When directed to the website today, she responded: “I could not read it because it’s blurry.”

She added that she’s filed complaints with a couple state agencies, saying she is “committed to making this right for the 1,100 (and counting) students” whom she said the board had “abandoned.”

UPDATEA school spokesman confirms the Gwinnett campus will not re-open as planned next year, and all planning to reopen in that county has ceased.

UPDATE: an enterprising reader plucked enough words from the letter to do an online search, and found what looks to be a (legible) copy elsewhere on the school’s website. (Also, as of Saturday evening, the illegible letter had been removed from the web page, which was blank.)

Can you read Ivy Prep's statement?
Photo: Ty Tagami

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