Local News

Fayetteville Parents Upset About School's Sudden Closure

Posted September 15, 2004 4:41 a.m. EDT

— A well-known private school in Fayetteville is under investigation for possible fraud.

Officials say Gail Autry, the owner of the Haynie School, could face fraud charges if she knew she was closing the school before taking tuition money.

"We are getting complaints from teachers and staff at the school that they have not been paid," Fayetteville police Sgt. Kellie Hart said. "We are getting complaints from parents who have paid tuition."

Stacy Diana enrolled her daughter at the Haynie School. She said she was stunned when the school closed without warning.

"We just couldn't believe it. I mean I just never thought," parent Stacey Diana said.

Autry said business had been slow and she could not pay teachers' salaries. Enrollment dropped by half in the past couple of months. In a written statement, she said she discussed the situation with her staff and planned to give parents notice, but, "the teachers met, reconsidered their options over the weekend and decided not to return to work."

"Child care is already a big enough issue without having to count on somebody that leaves you high and dry," parent Nicole Hardison said.

"I was very disturbed," parent Andrea Shields said. "There are no words. I was so disturbed at what happened."

Autry promises to pay teachers and refund parents. Now, many parents face the same concern -- finding a new school for their children.

"They got used to teachers. They met friends and now they have to start all over again," Diana said.

"It's a well-established school. I've had family members come to the school. They have been there for quite some time," Hart said.

The Haynie School, established in 1938, was a

three-star child care facility

. The children who attended the school ranged from 6 months old to 5 years old. Other schools have come forward to allow parents to enroll their children into their schools.