First Place Scholars, in Seattle’s Central District, will focus on early learning this year because of budget issues.
First Place Scholars, which last year became the state’s first charter school but since has reverted to operating as a private institution, will serve only students in prekindergarten through first grade this year.
The Central District school, which charges no tuition, doesn’t have enough money to continue its second- through fifth-grade classes, so leaders decided to focus on early learning, Board President Dawn Mason said.
The announcement came just days before school is scheduled to start on Sept. 7.
“We had to make a business decision to cut back and focus on primary,” Mason said.
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The school is working with Seattle Public Schools to make sure all the second- through fifth-grade students who would have attended First Place can enroll in a public school. First Place will provide school supplies and clothing for the students. Still, parents have said they are frustrated that the decision came so close to the start of the school year, which Mason acknowledged is inconvenient for families.
First Place opened as Washington’s first charter school in September 2014 after decades as a private school serving mostly homeless students. It had a rocky first year as a charter, with problems that led the state’s charter-school commission to put the school on probation, then a Supreme Court decision deeming charter schools unconstitutional. The legal issues have since been addressed by the state Legislature, but First Place Scholars became a private school again last December.
The school will continue serving students who are homeless, at risk of being homeless or underserved.
“We didn’t do charter schools well, so now we are here again,” Mason said. “Our need in Seattle has changed, so we’re changing. Nobody does what we do.”