Dozens of parents toured local schools Sunday trying to find one to enroll their children after finding out Friday and Saturday that Arlington Country Day School had abruptly closed its doors.
Focused on getting their children settled in for classes on Monday, several parents said they noticed no obvious signs of problems at the 64-year-old Jacksonville private school that court records show is a defendant in two civil lawsuits filed last year.
Some also said parents deserve at least an explanation from the school’s leaders for the disruption in their children’s lives and education caused by the closure.
Arlington Country Day closed Friday afternoon with no explanation except for a three-paragraph email sent to parents apparently from principal/owner Deborah Condit announcing the closure.
Neither Condit nor a Ponte Vedra couple identified in state documents as directors of the for-profit corporation operating the school could be reached for comment Sunday. Times-Union telephone messages left at the school, and at the office of the attorney representing the school in the lawsuits during the weekend were not returned.
Enrollment ranged from 221 to 395 students at ACD, a kindergarten through 12th grade school at 5725 Fort Caroline Road, according to various online directories listing private schools nationwide.
Sunday, a steady stream of parents filled out enrollment documents at Arlington Community Academy and Parsons Christian Academy – two private schools near the closed school.
Felicia White was among at least 25 parents who had enrolled her children at Parsons by 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Parsons was among several Jacksonville private schools that opened its doors both Saturday and Sunday afternoon to accommodate ACD parents seeking a new school for their kids.
White said her daughter had been in fifth grade, and her son was a ninth-grader at ACD. It was her daughter’s third year and her son’s second year at the school. Both liked their teachers this year, she said.
But some things seemed off, White said.
“They were kind of money-hungry to me,” White said.
White said, for example, on dress-down day, if the kids wore regular clothes, they had to pay $2 each for the privilege. The school charged $4 a day for lunch, which White said wasn’t included in the tuition. In comparison, Parsons where she is enrolling both her children, charges $1 for breakfast and $2 for lunches, White said.
White said her children attended ACD on McKay Scholarships, so their tuition was free. But the dress-down day fee and lunches weren’t included in the tuition, she said.
“McKay sends the checks to the school and the parents have to come endorse it. And I haven’t endorsed them in a couple of months. I don’t know what was going on with that,” White said.
Tilandra Jones and Tshamiah Williams, whose daughters were second-grade classmates at ACD, enrolled each of the children at Arlington Community Academy on Sunday afternoon.
Jones said her daughter was heartbroken at the closure. ACD was the only school she’d ever attended, and she was a student there since kindergarten.
“She was crying when I picked her up from school Friday. That is how I found out about the school closing. I asked her why she was crying, and she was crying so bad she could’t even answer me,” Jones said. Her daughter had overheard the older kids talking about it, said Jones, adding nobody at the school directly told her, she said.
Williams said her daughter was equally upset. So, too, was her nephew, who was a 10th grade student and a player on the ACD basketball team. The family doesn’t know yet where he will go next, she said.
The women said since their daughters learned they will still be classmates at their new school, they are less upset.
Filed separately last February in circuit court, the lawsuits were listed as active Sunday, according the Duval County court docket.
The parent of one potential student is suing Arlington County Day, as well as Condit individually, seeking a total $179,385. As allowed under state law, that is three times the initial amount paid upfront to the school for tuition, room and board, books and other fees.
Lim Leang Ngoun — in the lawsuit filed Feb. 6, 2017 — alleges civil theft, breach of contract, fraud and other violations in the case that evolved when his son was accepted as a student but unable to come to America to study.
That lawsuit alleges the school accepted Ngoun’s son as a student for the 2014-16 school years, and it promised to refund the $59,795 initially paid to the school if he couldn’t attend. When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied the youth a visa to come study in America, the school refused to refund the money to Ngoun, according to the lawsuit.
A lawsuit originally filed Feb. 1, 2017, accuses the school of breach of contract, negligence, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Alioune Diallo and Ousseynou Fall allege in the suit that in September 2014, the school offered the two admission, as well as reasonable accommodations of food and housing, in exchange for playing on the basketball team.
The lawsuit states the school failed to uphold those offers. It also states Diallo and Fall then were asked to leave and told they wouldn’t get their diplomas. On April 13, 2017, they amended their original lawsuit. Earlier this month, on Jan. 9, the judge in the case dismissed the amended suit. Information explaining the dismissal wasn’t available Sunday.
Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075