BRADENTON — State officials began the process Tuesday of suspending The Prep Learning Academy from receiving thousands of dollars in public scholarship money after it failed to comply with state regulations.
The Florida Department of Education issued the school a noncompliance letter after the for-profit school recently changed location and did not notify the state. Officials gave The Prep until Tuesday to acquire a background check for its owner, a health certificate, a fire inspection and a surety bond. The school had not complied with any of the requirements by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
This school year 14 students at the renamed Bradenton Preparatory Academy were slated to receive about $25,000 in McKay Scholarships given to students with disabilities, said Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman with the DOE.
Prep Learning Academy lost its 11-acre campus off 40th Avenue West in July after a lender won a $3.68 million foreclosure judgment on the property. Last month, the school’s owner, Hendrik Lamprecht, opened a new school in a leased storefront at 7700 Cortez Road.
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Lamprecht, who did not return phone calls or e-mails Tuesday, previously said he’s undergone the background check and had been awaiting a health inspection by the county.
But on Tuesday, Manatee County Health Department Environmental Supervisor Barbara Will said the school had not applied for a health inspection at the Cortez Road location or any other site in the county.
Also Tuesday, the school still had not obtained a permit to hold classes there. A county planner said Lamprecht had not submitted an application for the permit.
Since school started late last month, students have moved to several locations for classes. For the first few days, students met at a church near the Cortez Road site. Last week, students met in a Holiday Inn Express conference room until the city of Bradenton informed them they were violating zoning rules by holding classes there, said Tim Polk, director of planning and community development for the city of Bradenton.
On Friday, county officials found the students inside Braden River Baptist Church at 5412 State Road 64 E. while conducting a routine health inspection there. No one answered the church telephone on Tuesday afternoon.
Their whereabouts this week were not known. School officials could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the school’s owner is being investigated by University of Central Florida campus police after he reportedly bounced a $6,000 check to pay for a summer football camp.
UCF head football Coach George O’Leary reported the incident to police on July 26 after the check bounced twice, according to a police incident report. Lamprecht told officers the check came from the account of the school’s previous owner, The Children’s Place Inc., controlled by the school’s founding family, and that it had been liquidated.
“Initially, it was a worthless check, but now we are looking to see if we’ll raise it to a grand theft charge,” Sgt. Troy Williamson, UCF campus police spokesman, said Tuesday.
Last week, Lamprecht disbanded the school’s football team. He threw 20 of its 27 players off the team and out of school saying they were being disruptive and had decided to put athletics over academics.
The Patriots were supposed to begin the season on a three-game road trip through Louisiana and Texas. The Patriots won their first two games before their third game, scheduled to be played against Redwater High in Texas, was canceled when Redwater’s coach, Jeff Stine, claimed that seven players on the school’s roster were considered too old to play football in Texas.
It was later revealed that at least two players were post-graduates, having already earned diplomas from other high schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties. In a previous interview with the Herald, Walt Williams, the Prep’s football coach and athletic director, blamed that on Joe Hammond, the school’s previous head coach. Hammond has disputed that contention.
Other problems at the school include several creditors suing over unpaid debts and Children’s Place owing more than $1 million in federal payroll taxes, according to Internal Revenue Service liens. Also, about a dozen former teachers contend Lamprecht owes them up to four months’ back pay and plan to sue.
Lamprecht has said he’s not responsible for those problems, although he said he tried to resolve them.
Lamprecht has said he began investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bradenton Prep last September in an effort to save a once-prestigious school that was crumbling financially. He said he later learned Children’s Place — run by Lois Gerber, who co-founded the school with her husband Murray in 1975 — was spending more money than it was taking in and was deeper in debt than he realized.
Last month JP Morgan Chase Bank sued to foreclose on Gerber’s Bradenton home. Court documents say she hasn’t made a payment since January of this year and owes the bank more than $304,000.
Gerber could not be reached for comment Tuesday.