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New charter school put on probation; closure decisions deferred

The six charter schools the Department of Education deemed so weak that they could be closed won’t be shuttered — for now.

But the department put a seventh school, New York French American Charter School, on probation for what it said were “serious violations” of state law and its own charter that could have left students unsafe.

The notice of probation sent by the DOE’s Charter Schools Office to NYFACS’s board yesterday lists concerns about the school’s financial stability, discipline procedures, teacher certification, academic instruction, and safety practices. It notes that the school is already late in producing audited financial statements for the last year.

“The school has no established financial controls and operational policies; the termination of one Operations Director and the hiring of a replacement has left the school in operational disarray,” reads the report, which also notes that the school has few books and that a parent volunteer with keys to the building had reportedly taken to sleeping in the school overnight.

The DOE set a series of deadlines, starting this month, for NYFACS to improve its internal operations and bring itself into compliance with state law. If it does not meet the requirements, it could be closed before the next school year begins.

Three of the charter schools that had already been put on notice will be allowed to continue to operate until their charters come up for renewal, DOE officials said today. Those schools are Academic Leadership Charter School, Bronx Academy of Promise, and Future Leaders Institute Charter School, and they will all be monitored closely.

Two other schools, Opportunity Charter School and Peninsula Preparatory Charter School, are up for renewal this year. Decisions about whether the department will suggest that they be allowed to stay in operation will be made by the renewal application deadline next week, officials said.

A decision on what to do about the sixth school on the shortlist, Williamsburg Charter High School, will depend on how its board addresses the terms of its probation, DOE officials said. Two weeks ago, as a condition of the probation, the board dissolved the school’s relationship with its network, Believe, but said it was not happy about taking that step.

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