NC charter school poses ‘immediate threat,’ must close, State Board of Education determines ::

— A Bertie County charter school affiliated with a Raleigh-area charter school must immediately close and turn over its assets to the county school system, the North Carolina State Board of Education decided Friday.

That means students of Three Rivers Academy must find a new school for the final weeks of the school year.

Three Rivers Academy had been set to close June 30, after the State Board of Education voted not to renew the school’s charter earlier this year. But Friday, the State Board held a continuation of its meeting that had been scheduled to end Thursday, and voted within minutes to close the school immediately and turn its assets over to Bertie County Schools.

The county school system will oversee the school’s closure.

“Local school district leaders are standing by and ready to assist the school’s students who wish to re-enroll in their local public schools,” according to a statement to WRAL News from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

State data showed the school enrolls 85 students this year.

A clear reason for the sudden closure — instead of the anticipated closure at the end of the school year — was not given Friday. Department officials did not expand, in response to questions from WRAL, on the statement from the State Board of Education.

State Board of Education member Amy White read only from the text of the board’s order before the unanimous vote.

The State Board of Education’s order outlines the reasons behind the vote earlier this year to not renew the school’s charter and notes that the school cannot appeal the decision because the March 15 deadline to do so has passed.

The only reason given is that the school’s continued operation presented “an immediate threat.”

“While the State Board would prefer to close a school at the end of the school year, the State Board finds that immediate closure is necessary to protect the education needs, welfare, and rights of students currently enrolled in Three Rivers Academy, and to safeguard the financial and other public assets that are in the school’s possession,” the order reads.

The State Board ended the school’s charter after finding “egregious misconduct,” the school board’s “complete lack of oversight” and “complete abdication of its responsibility,” poor student performance, violation of federal and state laws and violations of its own charter. That included noncompliance with federal special education law, which is also among the reasons cited by the board in March, when the board revoked the charter of Torchlight Academy in Raleigh.

Torchlight Academy Schools LLC, owned by Donnie McQueen, served as the education management organization of both schools.

The State Board considered Torchlight Academy’s noncompliance with special education laws to be a threat the state’s administration of special education and ability to receive federal funding for special education for all of the state’s public schools.

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North Carolina is on the U.S. Department of Education’s “needs assistance” list for states that are not meeting all of the requirements under special education law for children ages 3 to 21.

Torchlight Academy has appealed the charter revocation. An appeal hearing will be held April 19, and the State Board will vote on the recommendation made from that hearing in May.

The school’s board voted in March to terminate its agreement with Torchlight Academy Schools, which the State Board approved Thursday as an amendment to its charter.