SAIL charter school to stay open until June 24

District officials devised a plan Tuesday to allow financially strapped SAIL Public Charter School to complete its academic year and to find new schools for its displaced students.

D.C. Public Charter School Board officials said they will hold an enrollment fair at SAIL on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for parents to meet with representatives of DCPS and public charter schools that have space remaining for the 2011-2012 academic year.

SAIL (School for ARTs in Learning), plagued by money problems for the past several years, relinquished its operating charter to the board in May. The plan agreed to called for Friendship Charter Public Schools to assume operations, but the deal fell through and SAIL announced last week that June 15 would be the final day.

District officials scrambled to come up with funds so that SAIL students could complete the legally required 180 days of school. Details of the financing were not immediately available. They also pledged Tuesday to find appropriate placements for all SAIL students, about half of whom receive special education services.

“We are working diligently to make sure we can accommodate these kids,” said Deputy Mayor for Education DeShawn Wright.

But in the process of sorting out the school’s future, questions have surfaced about the structural safety of the SAIL building at 16th and L Sts. NW.

Friendship officials said the deal became untenable after inspections of the building revealed that it would cost at least $1 million to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and local building codes.

Of greatest concern, Friendship said, was the capacity of the SAIL building, which includes three converted apartments, to withstand loads created by its 170 schoolchildren.

“We believe the risk and the liability is far too great. There are too many unknowns,” said Brian Beck, senior regional director of school operations and site services for Friendship, which operates seven schools in the city, including Anacostia High School, in partnership with the District.

Beck said inspections, conducted at Friendship’s request by Turner Construction and Jair Lynch Development Partners, indicated that even with $1 million in renovations, there was no assurance that Friendship could secure a certificate of occupancy from the District.

Terry Bunton, SAIL’s school director, declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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