Here is a Salt Lake Tribute article that discusses some issues with charter schools and APA specifically: Analysis: Utah charter schools move millions of public dollars to the coffers of a few private companies. This is particularly relevant to APA as they are one of the handful of charters to utilize the split non-profit school entity/for-profit management company methodology, which hides the pay and expenses of all of the top individuals. There are other ways that copyright, trademark or other intellectual property protections can be established without a for-profit management company.
In 2011 80% of Michigan Charter Schools are For-Profits (forbes.com) and then in 2016 A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift (nytimes.com). Utah is on this path. See the awfully boring section Brief history of Charter schools in Utah for more details on how charter schools in Utah grew up, the laws that allow APA to treat it's neighbors this way, and what reforms are needed to keep charters healthy in the future. We need healthy charter schools, Utah can't afford to end up like Michigan.
All Of This Has Happened Before And Will Happen Again
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American Preparatory Academy (APA) is our neighbor, we would like to welcome them to our Draper Utah community and believe a school is an excellent use for this property. Sadly APA did not do appropriate diligence prior to purchasing the land and constructing phase one, the elementary school. APA has created significant ongoing harm to our community for the past several years through the elementary alone, and now APA is building a high school expansion which will only increase the negative impacts to our community.
We request APA to work with us to put together an action plan for the items below, including: agreed upon success criteria, the plan for addressing each with time frame, and for long term items a self evaluation and reporting mechanism. A more detailed history of various issues can be found below.
Traffic Note: Phase2 as currently submitted to Draper City as public record
will likely block access to the neighborhood for twice as long as Phase1
alone currently blocks access.
Traffic Note: There is no substantiated evidence supporting the belief that
11950S will affect traffic flow, the issue of fire access via 119500 S is
independent of resolving traffic concerns.
Traffic Safety: How will traffic be kept out of the neighborhood, especially
out of our driveways? Current attempts to talk to offenders have not worked.
Causes for neighborhood driving include avoiding the no left turn rule, dropping
off children in the neighborhood to avoid excessive traffic lines
Traffic Safety: How will traffic patters creating an extremely unsafe exit
from the neighborhood be improved?
Traffic Safety: What policies will be put in place by fire, police and other
emergency vehicles to ensure the safety of children in the Inauguration
neighborhood when accessing the fire gate at the back of the subdivision.
Traffic Safety: How will the school ensure parents do not drop children off
in the neighborhood to avoid the excessively long lines? Current policies have
been ineffective. This must include license plate based identification.
Traffic Delays: How will traffic blocking access to/from the neighborhood be improved?
Privacy: APA has constructed their site with no regard to the privacy of
the neighbors. Previously private back yards are now exposed and windows can
easily be peered through as parents idle in the pickup/drop off queue. How
will APA return privacy to the affected neighbors?
property and will discuss a grading plan with each of the property owners prior
to starting construction. Time line is TBD but some time prior to Phase2 completion.
Nuisance Construction Noise: How will APA ensure their contractors obey noise ordinances?
Nuisance Construction Dust:
several interactions, APA has started to follow required dust mitigation policies.
We hope to be able to continue to report this positive improvement
Nuisance Ongoing: How will APA handle noise and light pollution related
nuisance cases in the future? Of greatest concern is early morning and after
hours activities, ambient safety light pollution and excessive noise on the
entry/exit from teenage drivers.
Neighborhood Integrity: If APA fails to gain access to 11950 S, what is
the maintenance plan that will be followed to ensure the destroyed home site
does not become an eyesore and further detract from property values? What is
the escalation path neighbors can utilize and what is the turn around
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The Phase1 traffic study indicated there would be little to no queuing on Loan Peak Parkway, but with just the elementary in operation there is 3,500 feet of on street queuing. Residents are often stuck inside the neighborhood for 10 minutes in the morning during a 30 minute window. APA claims that Phase2 will improve queuing but their traffic study is again likely deficient. Back logs of 3500 feet are frequently observed with the current phase1 traffic load. Phase2 will increase the total per minute traffic load as well as the active traffic time from 30 to 60 minutes. The added on site queuing is not sufficient to handle the current 3500 ft of on road queuing and thus It is highly likely the residents will be stuck inside their neighborhood from APA traffic for a full hour, rather than the half hour seen today.
To make matters worse, APA does not refresh their engineering traffic impact plans when they increase the school's headcount. APA told Draper City that Phase1 would consist of 960 students, after their plans were approved they requested and were approved by the state charter board an increase of funding to 1,100 students. APA has provided no indication that they investigated the impacts of this increase on the surrounding community, as is typically done via filings with the city planning department.
APA plans to use this tactic again. They already have on the agenda a request to increase the combined Phase1+Phase2 campus to from the engineered headcount of 1610 to somewhere over 1700.
There are currently ongoing traffic safety issues including in-neighborhood near misses of children, pet deaths and several car wrecks. Causes include unsafe entry and exit from the neighborhood; parents turning around in the neighborhood and using residents driveways, and parents dropping children off in the neighborhood. Phase2 will compound these issues with additional traffic, emergency services gate, and a large influx of young high school drivers. The Inauguration neighborhood's main roads were not designed with sufficient off street parking and the roads are often lined with cars, creating blind spots and one way choke points. The neighborhood also has many many families with small children playing outside. There was a recent 3 year old who died from a similar situation less than 2 miles away. This is a significant hazard on it's own for experienced drivers but the situation will become extremely dangerous with young inexperienced drivers in play.
The future fire access gate creates safety issues for the neighborhood. A fire truck or other emergency vehicles with their blinking lights will draw children out to see them, possibly appearing out from behind a parked car. We would like some special consideration applied by the emergency services when driving on the neighborhood's streets, and to try avoid using the access gate. Initially the gate had been left incomplete and walk able. During this time APA parents would drive to the back of the neighborhood and drop their children off to avoid waiting in the horrendous traffic created by the poorly designed facilities. This method of accessing the school has been expressly forbidden by Draper City's Planning Commission.
Inauguration residents are not the only ones sick of the traffic. APA parents are so desperate to bypass the excessive traffic lines that when there is a fence down, parents will drop their children off inside the neighborhood and have them tress pass through a homes back yard to avoid the traffic lines. Safety issues and property rights violations all on one!
During initial operation of the elementary, APA was welcomed by the neighbors. The business park to the north allowed them to store supplies in their facilities and made other accommodations to their property to assist the school to save costs during construction. Eventually APA ran up against their own failure to perform due diligence, they are required to have two access points for fire/safety access and asked this neighbor for access to the business park's road. When the business park asked for standard engineering documents prior to discussing further, APA repaid their previous kindness by ignoring the request for documents and property rights by constructing an unauthorized fire access gate on the business park's land.
In spite of this unfriendly behavior, the business park agreed to allow the fire access gate to remain temporarily, to keep the school from being shut down while APA looked for other means of access. This kindness was rewarded yet again, by a nonsensical law suite where APA, asserted that the business park did not actually own the land they had in fact owned for over 30 years. They also sued, in an absurd attempt as an unelected private non-government organization, to use eminent domain to seize the business park's property at a lower cost. Thankfully this law suite was thrown out and didn't set a terrible precedent, but still cost the business park hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend. Had it been won there would be precedent for anyone to sue anyone else to forcibly take their property.
APA still tries to justify their actions by casting into question the ownership of the land around the road. But as anyone can see from the county property records, parcels 27252000400000 (map) and 27251780020000 (interactive map) are clearly owned owned by City Center One Associates LLC while parcel 27251770010000 (interactive map) is owned by Wasatch PDL Holdings LLC. This behavior shows APA is willing to bend the truth to get their way.
At some point the business park became tired of APA's ongoing repayment of kindness and notified APA the access gate would be removed. APA purchased a single family home in the rear of the Inauguration subdivision, with plans to demolished it and use this route as a fire access gate. This not only increases safety concerns for the neighborhood but also significantly detracts from the homes in the immediate area, and opens this area up to future exploitation. We do not want this house removed.
APA continues to seek other paths to exercise eminent domain and take the land from the business park, creating additional legal defense costs for their neighbor. All because of their failure to properly complete due diligence and then failure to communicate with the neighbors who were originally friendly.
Throughout the last several years of operating the Elementary, APA has ignored ADA requirements for egress to a public through way, a safety issue. Requirements that every other business or public school would have to satisfy before being allowed to open.
With the start of construction on the high school, APA and subcontractors are violating Drapers noise and light pollution ordinances by starting construction at 5AM! After contacting Draper city the situation improved, but has started happening again. After repeated discussions with APA the neighbors now have had a few consecutive mornings of construction starting around 7AM. Hopefully this continues. This experience does not bode well for when the high school is operational and having late night functions creating noise and other nuisance's.
We expect APA to create ongoing nuisance for the community at large and additional nuisance for those homes which border it. We ask APA to establish a procedure on how these complains will be handled, including an easy to use interface for the community for submitting notices of violation, a service level commitment for how long it will take for initial response and an ongoing reporting mechanism detailing the number of notices received and resolved in a given calendar quarter, broken out by type.
We the neighbors and land owners around APA call for APA to fully address the grievances enumerated previously and act as a good citizen and neighbor going forward. We call upon Draper city to enforce their ordinances and protect us, the residents. We call hope the Utah State Charter School Board will take an active role in managing charter schools when needed in order to avoid further public mistrust of and damage to the important charter school system, this issue with APA is not an isolated event, similar ramrodding of bad design by charter schools has occurred throughout the state.
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When charter school initiatives first started in Utah they encountered fierce opposition from groups such as the teachers union. These groups would utilize city zoning ordinances to force city council and planning commissioners to block or slow charter schools construction. In response the state legislature granted additional powers to charter schools to bypass some of the zoning codes, keeping the parties opposing them from continuing to muck up the system. This appears to have been a reasonable granting of powers to allow the charter system to become established in the state.
In the early days charters were properly formed, with all operations being run as a 501(c)(3) non-profit entities. These non-profit entities are not 'owned' by any person, conceptually being owned by the community at large and managed by an volunteer independent board of directors. These non-profit entities also have IRS imposed public financial reporting guidelines, form 990, which can be found on guidestar.org. All was well, charter schools were saving tax payers significantly on education costs, providing needed public financial reporting and oversight.
Many if not most charter schools still operate using the best practice guidelines, but others, like APA, adjusted their operating model to have all high paid employees, who would normally be included on the IRS form 990, work for a for-profit entity then bill the non-profit entity for management/administrative fees. The public has no visibility into the allocation of these tax payer funds. In this model the for-profit charter management company forms a subsidiary (like Charter Starter LLC), which build the building, start the non-profit and appoint a board of directors. This board of directors then contract with the for-profit administrative company to run the school, such as providing key staff and curriculum. You will notice that generally you are not dealing with the local non-profit board members when you have an issue, but owner or employees of the management company. This structure is how some charters are sucking money out of the education system into private hands and avoiding traditional reporting requirements.
Returning to the legislature granted powers. The dark management companies are bad enough, but now on top of this we effectively have for-profit entities controlling non-profit boards who have been granted extra powers to violate local city ordinances, which the for-profit charter management companies abuse to increase profits. It is these extra powers which cause the majority of the issues for neighbors of charter schools. At this point (2017) the charter school system is entrenched as part of Utah's public education system, the state can not afford to abolish charter schools, and they no longer needed the extra powers previously granted to protect them.
Charters have provided much needed cost savings to the states education budget as well as bringing much needed diversity of education methods to our state. We hope to see similar progressive policies continue, especially in advancing diversity of education methods in open and visible ways. To keep the charter system healthy our state legislature must rescind the now excessive powers previously granted to charters and enact rules preventing the co-opting of charter schools by for-profit management companies. This will allow the cities to properly enforce their zoning guidelines to protect the charter school neighbors and will hopefully re-embolden the city planning commissioners to exercise the rights they already have today around traffic and safety issues, which cities have been unwilling to enforce because of the aggressiveness of the for-profit management companies over the years.
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