D.C. charter officials seek to keep Options open

D.C. charter school officials who previously had said they would seek to close Options Public Charter School for financial mismanagement said Thursday that they will now push to keep the school open.

Options was thrust into turmoil in October when the D.C. Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit alleging that three former school managers funneled millions of dollars to two for-profit businesses they ran. The D.C. Public Charter School Board voted in December to take the first steps toward closing the school.

Board members said at the time that they had no leeway under the law to keep Options open. But their decision drew criticism and concerns from the D.C. Council and the school’s court-appointed receiver, Josh Kern, who wondered what would become of Options’ 400 at-risk students — many of whom have disabilities and have been expelled from other schools — if Options were to close.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, told the D.C. Council’s Education Committee that he now intends to ask his board not to revoke Options’ charter.

Instead, the school’s academic programs would be run by D.C. Public Schools next year, and its business and legal operations would remain under Kern’s oversight until another charter operator could be identified to take over.

Pearson said there are still several steps before the proposal can be put into action. First, the charter board must vote in favor of the plan, and then D.C. Superior Court Judge Craig Iscoe — who is overseeing the ongoing Options lawsuit, and to whom Kern reports — must also approve.

Education Committee Chairman David A. Catania (I-At Large) praised the proposal as a preferable alternative to closing a school without a plan for what should happen to its students.

“It might provide a road map in the future when we look at school closings,” Catania said. “This could be an introduction to how do we do this in a smooth way.”

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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