- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - The statewide Charter School Commission voted Wednesday to give Washington’s first charter school one last chance to show it has made enough progress to continue operating for another school year.

During a telephone meeting, the commission discussed nine requirements that First Place Scholars must meet by June 15.

These conditions that will be communicated in a letter to the Seattle school could be the end of a long process that began in November, when the commission first started talking about the challenges the new school was facing.

First Place has been questioned repeatedly about its efforts to provide special education, its services for children who do not speak English at home, its financial stability and the school’s general education plan.

Commission members and staffers say the school has not been fulfilling all its legal and contractual obligations, according to the charter it has signed with the state of Washington.

On June 18, the commission plans to vote on whether First Place has met the conditions and whether its charter should be continued or revoked.

The commissioners acknowledged the nine conditions are a heavy lift for the school.

“The feeling is, if we are in essence going to have the confidence to allow the school to open for a second year, we believe strongly these things have to be in place,” said commission Chairman Steve Sundquist.

As commissioner Margit McGuire pointed out, “Time is an issue. It’s actually been an issue all year round.”

As commission Executive Director Joshua Halsey and others said, although the school has made progress in addressing them, they still have not completely answered commission requests for more detailed information about their progress.

“These are not new requests,” Halsey said of the nine conditions.

The conditions include requests for documents showing special education services have been given to students at the school, copies of plans to help individual students learn English, samples of classroom teacher “report cards” showing how well they are assessing each student’s social-emotional and academic growth, and an expense budget for the next school year.

If First Place completes this assignment, it will move on to a second set of conditions to be completed over the summer and through the next school year. If the commission decides the school did not meet the nine requirements, it will vote on next steps, which may include closing the school before its second year.

A request for comment from the school was not returned Wednesday afternoon.

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 next fall. Spokane Public Schools has approved two more schools scheduled to open at the same time.

Two organizations submitted applications this spring to open charter schools in the future.

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