09/09/04 — City officials says school must be inspected before it can operate

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City officials says school must be inspected before it can operate

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on September 9, 2004 2:01 PM

Charis Prep, a private school founded over the summer and operated at Abundant Life Fellowship on Sheridan Forest Road, could face being shut down by Goldsboro building inspectors if the proper steps are not taken.

Goldsboro's chief building inspector, Ed Cianfarra, said he spoke Tuesday with Carlos Peralta, minister at the church and an administrator for Charis Prep.

Cianfarra said he told Peralta that he was wrong in opening the school without its being inspected. Peralta said he did not know he had done anything wrong, according to Cianfarra.

Charis Prep opened Tuesday in Goldsboro and had 67 students enrolled in grades 1-12. The school is in the church's education space and has been in the planning stages since spring.

Peralta said today that the school is open and plans on being open for a long time.

"I can guarantee you that we will do everything we need to do to be legal," he said.

State officials said the school has not taken the proper steps to abide by state regulations. This could mean that parents whose children go to the school are guilty of violating the state's truancy laws.

Peralta said he had registered with state authorities and other organizations, but state officials say they have never heard of the school.

Cianfarra said that a church and school are two different things, and Peralta may have to alter the building for it to pass inspection. Once it passes, Cianfarra will sign off on it and then the paperwork will go back to the state level, be approved, and then the school will be able to operate, he said.

He said he did not get the impression that Peralta was doing anything illegal, but he is in violation of the building code and cannot operate in the meantime.

"He should not operate because we don't know the condition of the building," he said. But Cianfarra said he hadn't checked on whether the school is operating.

Peralta has the option of paying $30 to Cianfarra and his staff to do a complete inspection. Peralta would have to fill out paperwork stating what the building is intended to be used for and they could inspect it and see what needs to repaired and put it in writing. This would prevent any future inspection problems, he said.

Cianfarra said if the school has started and Peralta does not do anything further by next week, he will pay him an official visit and could shut the school down and pull the electricity and shut the water off.

Cianfarra said he believed the building was safe because it was a church and was built to accommodate many people.

Peralta would not comment on the steps he plans to take regarding the school.

State law says that if an unapproved school is discovered -- usually reported by the public school system of the county in which the school is located -- the school's administrators are not held liable under the law.

But the parents of the students would be in violation of a law that requires all parents to send their children to a state-approved school. That is a misdemeanor.

Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction with Wayne County public schools, said the school system monitors home schools and private schools on a monthly basis and tells principals to let them know if they have any concerns about schools.

Dr. McCullen had not received any concerns as of this morning about Charis Prep. The system has no students requesting to go to the school, and no parents have called with any concerns, she added.

If there are complaints, they check the schools out and then contact the state, she said.

Charis Prep is still not on the list of non-public schools updated by the state's Division of Non-Public Education. Peralta says he has 67 students.

"We are keeping a watchful eye on it," said Dr. McCullen.