Last week, Ball State University pulled the plug on two charter schools in Gary, and a third one chose to shut itself down, withdrawing its request for contract renewal.

Statewide, five other charters didn’t receive renewals.

Officials at Charter School of the Dunes and LEAD College Preparatory Academy, both in Gary’s Miller section, say they will appeal to Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools. The news stunned parents and school leaders at the two schools, but Robert Marra, executive director of Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools, said they should have seen it coming.

Marra said the decision against charter renewal came after an extensive review using new accountability framework outlined to schools last June. Marra said he held regional meetings and individual school meetings to review key data, including test scores, retention, financial oversight and curriculum effectiveness.

The timing couldn’t be worse for the Charter School of the Dunes which began building a new $13 million school in August. It’s one of the few new structures going up anywhere in Gary, and workers were busily finishing up the steel framework last week when Ball State delivered its bad news.

Now, parents and supporters are rallying behind Charter School of the Dunes, launching an online petition drive at www.change.org.

What happens next as the appeals are considered is unknown. What’s clear is, charter school sponsor Ball State has ramped up its evaluation methods and isn’t afraid to shut down schools.