MANATEE — Bradenton Preparatory Academy re-opened today with private security guards, barbed-wire fencing and its students sequestered in a church fellowship hall.
The financially troubled school, which lost its former campus to foreclosure, began its first day under a new name and in a new location: A leased storefront at 7700 Cortez Road W.
But there apparently were no students in the building. Instead, they were meeting in a nearby church’s fellowship hall, with a pair of unarmed Allegiance Security Group guards at the entrance.
When a a reporter approached this morning, the guards told him to leave immediately. The guards then accompanied the reporter to his vehicles, with one guard recording the scene on her cell phone.
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Church officials said the school, renamed "The Prep Learning Academy," was using the meeting hall just for the day.
Another unarmed guard from Allegiance Security Group manned the gated entrance to the school’s Cortez Road building, which was surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.
The private, for-profit school has been beset by financial problems, including unpaid federal payroll taxes, lawsuits from creditors and repossessed vehicles. School officials recruited a South African investor, Hendrik Lamprecht, in a bid to remain solvent last year.
But the school’s campus on 40th Avenue West was foreclosed on in July, and at least 15 former teachers contend Lamprecht — now the school’s majority owner — owes them up to four months’ back pay. The teachers are planning to sue.