More scrutiny for first charter school, while others apply

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SEATTLE (AP) — The state's first charter school continues to operate under careful scrutiny of the Washington State Charter School Commission, while the process for approving more charter schools moves along.

At a meeting Thursday in Mount Vernon, the statewide commission heard updates on corrective action by First Place Scholars, Washington's first charter school, which opened in Seattle last fall.

The school's efforts to meet the academic needs of all of its students has been questioned by the commission, which is charged with authorizing and tracking Washington's new charter school system.

The board had no plans to take action concerning First Place at Thursday's meeting, but listened to comments and received written updates on the situation at the former private school.

According to written reports to the commission, the school has made some progress in its work with students who do not speak English at home and in setting academic plans for children with special needs. But the commission is asking for more information, including detailed reports on testing, parent meetings and on students who have transferred out of the school.

Commission leadership expressed concerns that First Place was not following state guidelines for English-language learners and for supplying other kinds of student data, including testing.

Executive Director Joshua Halsey called the school's responses to its requests sufficient, but said he wanted more information so he could feel confident about the school's continued operations during the 2015-16 school year.

Meanwhile, two organizations have submitted applications this spring to open charter schools in the state.

Summit Public Schools wants to open a middle and high school in West Seattle. If the application is approved by the Charter School Commission, it would be the charter management group's second location in Seattle and its third in western Washington.

Willow Public School has applied to open a new charter middle school in Walla Walla. The organization said the school will be focused on project-based learning.

Six other schools that had expressed interest in submitting an application this year did not do so by the May 15 deadline. In a survey of those groups, most told the commission they would try to apply next year and that they needed more time to solidify their plans.

The other charter authorizer in the state, the Spokane school district, did not receive any applications this spring.

Washington's charter school law will allow up to 40 of the independent public schools to open in the state.

The statewide commission has already approved eight charter schools, with six scheduled to open in the fall.

Spokane Public Schools has approved two more schools scheduled to open this year.

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