While thousands of students started school across South Florida without any problems, second grader Elad Papo had a much different start to his school year when he was denied school entry over a parental volunteer protocol issue at his charter school, Ben Gamla.
The parental volunteer protocol states parents have to volunteer 30 hours a year, completed by the end of the school year to keep the child enrolled in the Hollywood school. The Papos moved to Florida in January and were required to complete just 15 hours of parental volunteerism.
“I cried and I said she cannot punish him because I didn’t do something correctly,” said Elad’s mother, Amalia. “I did complete something because I donated supplies. I don’t know how many hours it counts, but they didn’t say anything. They didn’t give me any update.”
Amalia said the company she was working for closed in March and she lost her job. She said that made it difficult to volunteer.
“When they closed the doors, I had to take my baby from daycare,” Amalia said. “How can you volunteer from daycare with a baby at home?”
Amalia said she was never contacted by the school telling her she was short of hours to keep Elad in school. She showed NBC 6 an email to the school relative to re-enrolling Elad for the coming school year.
“I sent an email to the teacher again making sure everything’s fine,” Amalia said. “They’re accepting the re-enrollment. She cc’d the principal in the email. No one sent me an email back saying they’re not accepting.”
But, according to Lyn Norman-Tech with the Florida Consortium of Charter Schools, the parents were notified about being short of volunteer hours. In addition, the Department of Education issued an opinion saying the school was correct in its move.
“Failure of a parent or parents to uphold or fulfill their responsibilities under that contract would be sufficient grounds for that charter school to deny admission to the child the following year,” the Department of Education said in its opinion.
Amalia said she showed up to school Monday morning offering to pay up to $150, which would cover $10 for failed volunteer hours. She says she was denied, reduced to tears, and threatened by a call to the police.
“The way they handled this was wrong. Totally wrong,” Amalia said.