Girls charter school in Las Vegas closing due to funding, enrollment issues

Girls charter school in Las Vegas closing due to funding, enrollment issues

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – A charter school in Las Vegas for girls is closing, forcing students to find another school.

Girls Empowerment Middle School, also known as GEMS, opened in 2020 and was dedicated to helping low-income families.

Yet, three years later principal Joyce Brooks says GEMS is closing.

“Getting funding and backing from people in the community is something a lot of non-profits rely on to keep going, and that’s something that we just couldn’t, secure enough funding to be viable,” Brooks said.

The school board decided on Monday, April 24 to cease operations on May 19.

Most of the student population at GEMS is black and Hispanic representing 82 percent of the enrollment during the 2022/2023 school year, according to records.

“Our families aren’t in a position to donate or pay tuition, and as a public charter, we don’t charge you tuition. So, we really rely on the state funding,” GEMS Assistant Principal Michael Taack said.

On April 14, the State Public Charter School Authority voted for GEMS to submit a financial plan on how they planned to survive until June 2024. But, GEMS could not submit one.
In a resignation letter dated April 12, the executive director of GEMS Tara Meierkord wrote, “I expressed my grave concerns regarding cashflow shortfalls and our ability to make payroll, and meet other financial and contractual obligations.”

Her last day is scheduled for Friday, April 28.

The State Public Charter School Authority wrote in a memo “that without higher enrollment for 2024 and beyond, it was likely the school’s financial outlook would continue to deteriorate.”

Gems only had 70 students enrolled for the upcoming 2023/2024 school year, according to SPCSA.

“We know that closing mid-year is not an option, so we need to see what is the plan to make sure the school completes this school year. And if possible, what other support can they show us that they will make it into the next school year,” Mark Modrcin, the director of authorizing for SPCSA, said on April 14.

On top of the funding problems, multiple staff members have left GEMS with state officials saying, “This leaves the board with six members, three vacant seats, and no school leader.”

GEMS is working with some families on finding another school for their children. About a third of the female students won’t be impacted as they’re graduating to high school, according to GEMS.

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