ALPHARETTA, Ga. — An application for a site approval permit from the Fulton Science Academy (FSA) still fails to meet the state’s litmus test after a second attempt to submit documents was returned by the Georgia Department of Education (GDOE).
The charter middle school is moving forward with plans to build an $18 million K-12 campus in Alpharetta, but must first receive the blessing of the GDOE to put the school on the 44-acre parcel. The state sent back FSA’s first application last month, requesting additional information and clarification.
Last week, it notified FSA that the additional information — while resolving some concerns — still falls short of state guidelines.
“[Documentation is] still lacking information that needs more clarity before the application process can go forward,” wrote Lynn Jackson of the GDOE in a letter to FSA officials.
FSA officials responded to the GDOE immediately, sending back clarifications to the nine areas of concern pointed out by the state agency.
Of most concern to the state, it appears, is the action by FSA to begin construction on the school prior to receiving state permission. Jackson said FSA officials are misinterpreting the state law pertaining to charter schools.
Jackson wrote FSA is incorrect when it states “charter schools must go through the site approval process and obtain approval before students attend school on that site” and prior to the start of construction.
“That statement is true only for charter schools that operate in previously constructed buildings,” she wrote. “These rules and guidelines may not be waived by charter schools as they directly relate to health and welfare of students.”
Ali Ozer, executive director of FSA said discussion on this point is “not productive” and did not address the concern in the communication returned to the DOE.
“The DOE did not ask [FSA] to cease the construction; so there is no action that must be taken by FSA,” said Ozer.
FSA, along with its sister schools – the Fulton Sunshine Academy (elementary) and FSA High School – have entered into a 30-year loan to build the $18 million campus to house all three charter schools.
Last month, FSA was denied a renewal of their charter by the Fulton County School System and is now seeking to become a state charter school beginning next school year.