By Joe Earle
Atlanta’s public school system is going to court to stop what it calls Riverwood International Charter School’s recruiting of city students.
“We want the activity to stop,” said APS spokesman Keith Bromery. “We filed an action in the court because the activity continued.”
Atlanta’s school system already has complained to state officials in April that Riverwood was recruiting students from Sutton Middle School and North Atlanta High School in violation of state law. The state sided with Atlanta and ordered Riverwood to stop accepting students from Atlanta without a contractual agreement between the systems.
Bromery said Atlanta school officials took their case to Fulton County Superior Court because Riverwood continued to enroll Atlanta students after the education department letter.
Fulton County officials say Riverwood doesn’t recruit students, but it does allow out-of-district students to transfer in to take classes.
“Riverwood’s charter agreement allows the school to accept out-of-district students on a cost reimbursement basis, and the school has followed this practice several years,” Allison Toller, executive director of communications and constituent Services for the Fulton schools, said in an e-mail.
Riverwood started accepting what the Fulton system calls “cost-reimbursement” students before it became a charter school, and the school’s charter specifically allows it to continue to accept such students, said Laura Stowell, charter liaison for Fulton County schools.
“We don’t have a problem,” Stowell said. “We’re perfectly content with the way things were in our system. Atlanta city no long wants this practice happening.”
Riverwood has stopped enrolling Atlanta students when it received the letter from the state, Toller said in her e-mail.
State law authorizes districts to charge out-of-district transfers, although it says districts should reach an agreement about the transfers.
After Atlanta officials complained about Riverwood to state Department of Education officials earlier this year, the department ordered Riverwood to stop enrolling students from Atlanta until the two districts worked out an agreement.
Fulton school officials say they want to negotiate such an agreement with Atlanta, but don’t know whether any negotiations will be stopped by the lawsuit.
“We’re nice. We’ll talk,” Stowell said. “We’ll just see what happens. I’m sure it will work out in the end.”
Bromery said Atlanta officials only want Riverwood “to come into compliance” with state law.
“They are not to be enrolling students without a mutual agreement,” he said.”No such agreement exists.”
APS went to court because Riverwood continued its practice of accepting students without negotiating the agreement, despite complaints from Atlanta officials and the order from the state.