PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla — The Barnabas Christian Academy in Port St. Lucie, formerly called The Nation Christian Academy, is closing its doors for good Saturday.
Friday, staff members and students could be seen packing up boxes and hauling supplies to a moving truck.
This comes after several long weeks for parents, students, and teachers who did not know what the future held for the embattled school.
Up until the very final days for the school’s Port St. Lucie location, parents felt left in the dark and confused.
“I’ve called the school about 5 or 6 times, and never once was the phone answered,” said parent Michelle Gregorek.
Earlier this year, families learned the school was facing financial problems, and being evicted by the landlord.
School leadership from another Christian school, St. Lucie Christian in Fort Pierce, offered to step in to keep the school afloat and try to work out a merger.
A condition of that merger, however, was having The Nation/ Barnabas CEO Michael Woodbury resign.
Woodbury was caught at the center of controversy last fall when an audio recording captured him using vulgar language toward a boarding student.
Executive Director of St. Lucie Christian, Kim Baumgardner, met with parents in February to ease their worries about the future for students’ education.
Shortly after that meeting, parents learned St. Lucie Christian was out of the plan, and Woodbury was back, against some parents’ wishes.
“He’s been in school, walking in and out of classrooms and he was there last week, too,” Gregorek said.
Just this week, Gregorek, a parent of two students at Barnabas, said she first learned through a teacher that the school would be closing.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education said they were just notified Friday about the school seeking a new location after it closes Saturday.
Cheryl Etters, Deputy Director of Communications said in a statement:
A school administrator today notified the department that they are moving their operations to 880 NW River Shores Blvd., Stuart, FL 34994. They have 15 days to provide the department with documentation, including required inspections. Our top priority is serving Florida’s students and their families, and both our department staff and Florida’s two scholarship funding organizations are available to assist them with any questions they have regarding their individual needs and options.
The location is in a residential area where some boarding students also live.
However, parents and one teacher say that arrangement is only for high school students. They are not sure if there is a plan in place for middle or elementary school students. Many parents withdrew their students from the school and are placing them somewhere new for the rest of the school year.
Gregorek has enrolled her students at St. James Christian Academy, which was willing to accommodate Barnabas students.
Gregorek also said there are students at the school under educational Visas, who could be jeopardized if the school were to shut down completely.
“As a parent, I feel I’ve been scammed,” Gregorek said.
Some teachers also feel uncertain about what their future holds.
Students living at the home on NW River Shores Blvd. approached WPTV outside the house, with Woodbury on the other line. Woodbury told “local media” to seek comment from one of the minor students, and hung up the phone when asked for further comment.
WPTV reached out a second time to Woodbury for a comment, but he hung up the phone.