ATLANTA,None - Dozens of metro area families are left wondering where their children will go to school next week after the New Birth Christian Academy suddenly closed its doors.
The school had operated for 18 years inside New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a once thriving megachurch pastored by Bishop Eddie Long.
In a letter to parents last week, school leaders wrote “all of our efforts have proven to be unsuccessful in closing this financial shortfall. The board has made the tough decision to close the school.”
School leaders blamed the economic downturn for years of financial deficits which the megachurch had been trying to cover.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Jodie Fleischer says that now some parents are left wondering what will happen to the fees and tuition they've already paid. The school charged between $6,000 and $8,000 per student, per year in tuition and fees. Some of which is non-refundable, according to the church website.
"I'm sure they have not offered to refund because you pay it in full for the year. You also pay an additional month's tuition in August," said one parent who asked not to be identified.
She said she had no idea the school might close until she received the letter during winter vacation, saying the school would not reopen next week.
"It's almost like they purposely waited for the holiday before they sent out this letter. I mean, a letter ... my daughter basically does not have a school to go to Jan. 4," she said.
The parent says she's angry with how the school handled the closure, with no warning, and no transcripts provided yet.
"I don't even know how to register for public school, she's never been in a public school environment," she added, worried about her teenage daughter's educational future.
She believes recent scandals involving Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that houses the school, drove families away. She says the school only had about 100 students left this year.
"I believe that this last straw with the divorce, the sealed settlement, it just does not look good. I really believe people continued to take their children out as each allegation unfolded," she said.
But now, her only concern is finding a new school for her daughter, and quickly.
"I'm just looking at the websites of each school and trying to figure out what would be better. And there are not that many great schools in this area, that's why she's been in private school," she said.
A DeKalb Public Schools spokesman told me the district will welcome any of the displaced students who live in DeKalb County. Parents should bring the proper documentation, noted on the district website, to their assigned school next week. The district's central office will be open starting Monday to answer questions.