The Chesapeake Alternative School in South Baltimore will remain open for the rest of the school year after being assured by the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services on Tuesday that there had been a misunderstanding about funding cuts.
Chesapeake, a nonprofit that teaches students who have been referred to Juvenile Services, had issued a news release saying it would close its doors Friday after funding had been cut from $1.3 million annually to $350,000.
The school serves about 40 students who often have a history in the juvenile justice system and have gotten into trouble for drugs or theft.
The students "get very little parental guidance. They are living in the most disadvantaged, crime-ridden parts of the city," said Ivan Leshinsky, executive director of Chesapeake. "They have a history of failing in public schools. We have 16- and 17-year-olds reading at a second-grade level. They don't think they can improve their life situation until they come to us."
Leshinsky said early Tuesday that he had hoped to reopen in early January after he had time to find additional funding. He had begun negotiations with private individuals, nonprofit foundations, the city schools and the Maryland State Department of Education to keep the school open.
But after a reporter's inquiries to Juvenile Services on Tuesday, department spokeswoman Tammy Brown said there had been a misunderstanding and that Chesapeake would be getting $825,000 through the end of June. "We have been thrilled with the services they have provided," Brown said.
Juvenile Services does intend to cut the budget to $350,000 for the fiscal year starting in July, which Leshinsky said he was made aware of this fall.
"It is just due to budget constraints," Brown said. "We have had to make difficult choices."