Seattle charter school placed on probation

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington's first charter school has been placed on probation for not meeting all the requirements of its charter.

The Washington State Charter School Commission informed First Place Scholars in Seattle of a list of requirements it must fulfill. Problems identified at the school included not keeping the commission informed of school board actions, not properly providing special education and not giving proof that every staff member had completed a criminal background check.

Commission staff told school leaders they will be making frequent visits to First Place to make sure they are in compliance.

The commission is in charge of approving and overseeing most of the state's charter schools. It has approved seven other charter schools, with six scheduled to open in fall 2015.

Spokane Public Schools, which can authorize charter schools, has approved two more schools scheduled to open in 2015.

Commission executive director Joshua Halsey said at a meeting on Thursday that the decision to put First Place on probation is step three in the commission's due process procedure.

The school will remain on probation until it fulfills all the requirements of the commission's corrective action plan, which will continue at least until the first month of the next school year.

"I'm hopeful that First Place will fulfill their obligations," Halsey said, after reporting on a meeting with school leaders earlier in the week.

Halsey described the action plan as being focused on moving forward.

In a letter dated Tuesday to the school, the commission outlined the problems with the school's response to its concerns.

"Most troubling, though, is that the school's proposed plan was almost entirely deficient," the letter states.

The school did not address the commission's findings, there were inaccuracies in the school's proposal and the plan did not offer details about how the corrective action would be accomplished, according to the letter.

Voters in 2012 passed a charter school law focused on meeting the needs of at-risk children, with very specific requirements for proposals that get a charter.

First Place was the first charter to open in Washington in part because it wasn't starting from scratch. It had long been a private elementary school, founded initially to serve homeless students.

Becoming a charter is helping it expand from about 45 students to up to 100 children, who are dealing with all kinds of issues, not just homelessness.

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