Tuition-free Minneapolis charter school closes a month after opening

A brand new Minneapolis charter school announced on Wednesday it is closing its doors immediately, just weeks after it opened.

In a post on its website, the Minneapolis School of New Music's founder Bart Johnson writes the school will be shutting down permanently just as the school year gets underway. Johnson blames a shortage of staff that forced the decision to close the school on Thomas Avenue North in Minneapolis' Camden neighborhood.

"We simply do not have the staff to continue our academic program," Johnson wrote.

Johnson promises the school "will work with families to help them transition smoothly to their next school."

In June, Johnson along with school board member and Lizzo's touring DJ Sophia Eris appeared on FOX 9 to tout the new school that was tuition-free and designed for students with a keen interest in music, serving grades six through eight.

"Everything is free, it's a public school, and there is no enticement or tuition or anything like that," explained Johnson. "We want kids who are interested in music to have that opportunity. We want to be able to amplify the genius within each kid."

"I just could not find a way out of this," said Johnson in an interview on Wednesday. "In a staff of seven adults, if two teachers resign, that’s a pretty difficult challenge to overcome."

Johnson said two teachers resigned this past week, and he was unable to find replacements amid a tight labor market. The teachers taught core classes among a staff of only seven people.

"We would have preferred that we stay open and made something work," he said. "But I don’t know what the day would have even looked like because that’s two-thirds of their academic workday where we don’t have anybody to fill in."

In an email to Fox 9, parent Joshua Bennett said he was extremely disappointed and felt misled by the school.

"This school fell short from day one and should have never opened," said Bennett. "My son has now lost five more weeks of learning after 18 months of distance learning due to the pandemic. We feel scammed."

Johnson said he understands the frustration, saying the last thing he wanted was for the school to close.

"I think the community really did want this to work but the time just doesn’t seem like it was right for us to be successful," he said.

Johnson said they’ve sent a list of charter and public schools to parents, to help aid in finding enrollment elsewhere.