Orlando school denies parents tuition refunds

Threat of closure doesn't change board's mind

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - A group of parents claims Providence Academy -- an Orlando school that focuses on students with special needs -- owes them a partial refund on their tuition.

Carol Nett, whose child attended the school's east campus, says school leaders told parents in early December the school was closing because it couldn't afford to stay open. She said the CEO gave parents a list of other schools to contact, explaining Providence had already called ahead to explain the situation.

"They (the kids) were crying," she said. "It was awful."

Nett said the news was compounded by the fact the Christmas holiday break was coming up.

"We had a week," said Judy Sears, another parent. "By Friday of that week, we had to have our students in another school."

About a week later, the school announced it was no longer closing and urged parents and students to stay, and a week after that, the CEO resigned.

With their kids already enrolled in new schools, Sears, Nett and other parents now want their prorated pre-paid tuition -- as much as $10,000 -- refunded.

"Several parents took the impression that the school was closing," said Tom Porter, a consultant brought in to help get Providence Academy back on financial track. "Within a week after that, we told them the school was not closing."

He told Local 6 the foundation's board of directors considered their request for a refund and said no.

"The circumstances of these people requesting refunds did not merit a refund based on policies we've always followed," said Porter

"The contract is that you're responsible for the tuition for a full year," explained Nett. "I can understand that. But if you tell me you're closing, how can you hold me to that?"

Local 6 obtained Internal Revenue documents filed by Providence Foundation, which runs Providence Academy. They show the school started operating with a negative balance in 2011, when they reported a $97,524 loss.

Providence Academy operates two campuses in Orlando. One is located on Alafaya Trail and the other is located on Conroy Windermere Road.

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