Parents Upset After School in Citrus Heights Shuts Down Unexpectedly

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CITRUS HEIGHTS --

Parents at West Pioneer Academy are scrambling to find new schooling for their children after school administrators told them the school will be closing down on December 31.

West Pioneer Academy was founded by former special education advocate Theresa Del Biaggio in 2011. The school currently has 45 students, six teachers and two administrative members.

When parent Melissa Eaker received the email two days before Christmas, she thought it was an April Fools' joke.

"It's a headache," parent Jeff Gordon said. "My wife and I are doing the scrambling we need to do to figure out what we need to do for our kids next."

Del Biaggio said the finances were just not adding up. She said many parents did not pay the $5,000 annual tuition, which made it hard to stay afloat.

"She can shift the blame onto the parents, but ultimately, she's the principal and she's the owner," Eaker said. "She's the licensee person of the school and the blame will always land on her, and that could be part of the cause."

In the four years of operation, Del Biaggio said she never collected a paycheck. She even personally financed thousands of dollars to keep the school open. Parents said they understand the reasoning, but said the timing of notification was poor.

"It leaves us all stranded during the holidays when all the other private schools and what not, even the district are all out," Eaker said.

Eaker's son Ethan has special needs and requires smaller class sizes and more attention. She said finding a new school will not be easy.

Gordon has two children enrolled in the school. He too was disappointed at the closure, especially because his children enjoy the teachers. He is now worried about his kids and their reaction to the school's closure.

"We can't really afford the kids into a comfortable transition, other than 'hey, it's a surprise, this is what's happening. Sorry, but there's a new school that you're going to next week.'" Gordon said.

Parents said they received another email from the school administration that they must pick up all of their children's belongings by Wednesday. They are upset they did not even get 24 hours notice.

Parents are holding a special meeting at the Round Table Pizza off Sunrise and Antelope Wednesday at 6 p.m. to discuss alternatives for next year.

A representative from San Juan Unified School District said they are aware of the sudden closure. Beginning Monday, they will help enroll families into their public and charter schools.