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Charter school lacks records from Alpine

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OREM — School begins today at the Noah Webster Academy, a new charter school in Orem, and administrators are scrambling to obtain students' records from their former Alpine School District schools.

"I'm definitely missing a couple hundred (records), at least," said Laurie Toro, secretary at the school, which educates 525 students in grades kindergarten through six.

On Tuesday, Utah State Office of Education Deputy Superintendent Ray Timothy reminded the Alpine District by e-mail that its schools must comply with records requests, after Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, discussed concerns about records with Patti Harrington, the state superintendent.

Alpine District officials replied to Timothy that they would send a message to the schools. It was the second message from the district to the schools.

In early August, the district told principals to comply with records requests, even if parents do not sign permission for the schools to release the records, which is protocol, Alpine Assistant Superintendent Gary Seastrand said.

Charter schools receive public funding and are expected to follow the state's curriculum. But they are governed by boards typically made up of parents instead of a district office and publicly elected school board.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a staff member of Vineyard Elementary, one of the schools that had not turned over records, drove to Noah Webster and gave Toro records of 44 students, she said.

Vineyard staff were not "trying to withhold them," Seastrand said. "They haven't followed through the way they should have."

Noah Webster is seeking cumulative records of all students and Individual Education Plans of special education students.

Cumulative records include copies of birth certificates, immunization records, report cards, awards, disciplinary action and scores on standardized tests. The IEPs identify needs of special education students and educational goals.

The school will have about 28 special education students, and parents of most of the students have given copies of their IEPs to Noah Webster, since the district schools have not, Toro said.

Sharon Moss, founder of the charter school, calls the IEPs crucial because testing for special education students will begin during the first weeks of school.

Ferrin does not believe Alpine District schools withheld the records out of malice.

"They're busy," he said. "It's the beginning of the school year."

Typically, charter and district schools complain about each other during the weeks that a charter school first opens, Timothy said.

"They're not working together as cooperatively perhaps as they could," he said. "Once the charter school gets up and running and establishes itself, that cooperation tends to work."

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com