Plant City school abruptly closes program

Posted at 5:48 PM, Apr 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 00:40:18-04

A Plant City school has shut down one of its programs, and parents say they only found out through Facebook it was going to happen.

Liberty Christian School is part of Liberty Southern Baptist Church in Plant City. While the preschool and VPK are still up and running, the kindergarten is now closed. The pastor says the reason is black and white, but parents aren't convinced.

Dannelle Pearson is the proud mom of a 5-year-old little boy who has special needs. She says the setting of Liberty Christian School in Plant City has been a blessing.

"He has ADHD, so I figured with the smaller classroom and all that he would do pretty good, and he has been. He's the top of his class, making straight A's on every report card," Pearson said.

But Pearson said some problems started to surface at the school in December. The school's director called to say she was leaving and hoped families would follow her to another school. But Pearson kept her little boy at Liberty and a new director stepped in.

"Everything was smooth sailing then. Perfect," Pearson said.

Then last week, a message popped up from the school on their Facebook feed. It said the school would be shutting down its kindergarten program immediately, giving parents less than a day to find a new place for the kids to attend school. The family felt blindsided.

"Angry. Sad. Frustrated," said Connie Browning Pearson, Dannelle's mother.

Pastor Mike Fredette and his wife head up the church and school. He says his wife took a three-month medical leave. When she came back, she audited the school's books and was stunned.

"Not only were we not being paid for some of the children, but none of the parents were supporting their children's education," Pastor Fredette said.

He said that left the church nearly $7,000 in the hole, and the cost to keep the school running without parents paying the bills would be nearly $100 a day. He insists that with a congregation of 70 people, the church simply couldn't afford to make up for all the losses.

"After much prayer, and realizing the church has been victimized, we decided to end the program," Pastor Fredette said.

But several parents say they had been paying tuition. Dannelle Pearson even has a statement from Jan. 27 showing she had a zero balance and indicating her child was on scholarship at the school. With only a handful of weeks left in the school year, they think the church should have continued classes, giving them all summer --instead of less than a day -- to find a new school.

"The school didn't let down the children. The parents let down their own children," Pastor Fredette said.

Pastor Fredette also says rumors about personal problems within his family driving the the closure of the school are untrue.