Who will pay for GACS’s new facility?

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Guahan Academy Charter School (PNC file photo)

“If a charter school cannot sustain itself, then GDOE and, more importantly, the many students and families who are depending on that charter school are going to be impacted down the road,” -Superintendent Jon Fernandez.

Guam – Guahan Academy Charter School is no stranger to controversy.

In the beginning of the school year, GACS opened their new facility without proper permitting. After a tumultuous delay in the school’s opening, GACS finally opened their doors weeks after the promised date. On top of these concerns, the school revealed that they exceeded the cap in enrollment in order to pay for the new building.

In fact, the looming debt from the facility sparked concerns from the charter school council and the Guam Department of Education.

According to a GDOE press release, GACS is funded to support no more than 740 students, but has reportedly enrolled as many as 980 elementary, middle, and high school students. For FY17, the charter schools will be drawing $8,060,000 from the GDOE budget, at an authorized funding level of $6,500 per student.

“I support charters, but as we look at the resources being drawn from GDOE and the information gained in validating charter school expenditures, it is important that we strengthen the financial sustainability and accountability of these organizations,” said Fernandez in a press release.

He continued, “If a charter school cannot sustain itself, then GDOE and, more importantly, the many students and families who are depending on that charter school are going to be impacted down the road. It’s even worse if the charter school has taken on debt obligations that it cannot pay. I’m hoping that we can look at and deal with these issues now, especially with more charters knocking at the door.”

In an interview with PNC, Fernandez admitted that there were several concerns with GACS’s finances as well as questions regarding the recent procurement of their new building.

“I think my biggest concern, I’d like to be proven wrong, but it seems that the charter school entered into a long term obligation for financing expansion of the facilities and I’m not clear, I was given the impression that they had relied on a higher enrollment in order to be able to fund and pay back those obligations,” he said.

This, he says, was an immediate red flag.

“We’re not involved in any of the transaction or commitments. So, we really want it to be clear whether GDOE would be exposed to any type of liability or the government of Guam,” he said.