State leaders begin closure protocols for embattled charter school

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission has begun closing an embattled online charter school that the State Board of Education ordered to shut down last week.

The commission has been helping Another Choice Virtual Charter prepare for permanent closure for months, commission director Jenn Thompson told EdNews Wednesday. In February, the commission took the first formal — and rare — step to close the school by voting unanimously for Another Choice’s permanent shutdown.

The decision followed a string of academic and operational concerns, including authorization of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from the school’s head administrator and board chair to companies owned by that same administrator. The board chair and administrator have since left the school.

The State Board sealed the school’s fate last week by siding with the commission to close the school indefinitely.

Another Choice is only the second charter school the state has ordered to close in more than 20 years.

The task of dissolving Another Choice falls to the commission, which authorizes the school, along with 56 of the state’s 74 other charters.

“It’s a process that hasn’t been used in a long time, and hopefully won’t be used for a long time to come, but we are working to protect student and taxpayer interests as best we can,” Thompson said of closure proceedings now underground.

A major part of the task: redistribution of assets purchased with taxpayer dollars.

Assets purchased with federal dollars must be redistributed based on federal requirements, Thompson said. The commission is now “finalizing arrangements” to take possession of these assets.

“This helps ensure that assets purchased with federal funds continue to benefit the intended population,” she said. “For example, items purchased with Title 1 dollars will be redistributed to other Title 1 schools.”

Assets purchased with state funds can be sold by the school, with proceeds used to pay teachers first and creditors second. Any remaining dollars will be returned to Idaho’s public school income fund.

School employees, except the business manager, will wrap up their work by June 30. The school has arranged for its business manager to stay on staff part-time for a few more months to sell any final items, submit any outstanding year-end academic and financial reports and close out any vendor and bank accounts.

The school can no longer draw on any public funds, Thompson said.

The school’s governing board will approve a final audit report set for completion by September. Then, trustees will file for the board’s own non-profit dissolution with the state.

Meanwhile, the school has been taking its own steps to help transition its nearly 400 at-risk learners and 38-plus certified staffers to another online school.

Another Choice is partnering with Wilder School District’s Idaho Future Ready Academy to provide a “similar educational program” and “create a smooth transition” for its K-12 students, the Another Choice’s website explains. “Many of our teachers and curriculum are transitioning there as well.”

Another Choice made its Nampa-based computer lab available on June 16 and 17 for in-person registration at Wilder’s online school. Students can also register online here.

Wilder Superintendent Jeff Dillon did not respond to questions about how many, if any, teachers and students have transferred to the district so far. EdNews will update this story with any numbers it provides.

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

Read more stories by Devin Bodkin »

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