For Odyssey Charter School, the wait continues

Students and parents at the beleaguered Odyssey Charter School in Idaho Falls will have to wait at least another week to learn whether the school will be shut down.

A meeting of the seven-member Idaho Public Charter School Commission was scheduled Thursday in Boise to decide the school’s fate. But the meeting was canceled after a legal dispute between Odyssey officials and the commission because of a Tuesday closed-session commission meeting that dealt with the school.

Carrie Reynolds, president of the Odyssey Board of Directors, said she, parents and students are anxious to get the commission’s accreditation decision.

“We have a lot of students who love our school,” she said. “We’ve been working all summer on this.”

Classes at Odyssey began last week. The school, which opened in August 2013, has more than 200 students enrolled in grades 6 through 11.

In June, the commission voted unanimously to issue a letter of intent to revoke Odyssey’s charter. The letter came after the school missed several deadlines and failed to achieve the required accreditation candidacy status.

Reynolds said the school needs only a month or two more to make improvements that would allow it to obtain the necessary accreditation level.

But commission members have said most charter schools obtain the accreditation candidacy status in their first year, and Odyssey hasn’t been moving in the right direction. It failed three separate readiness visits last school year.

Outside missing several deadlines, the commission has said concerns about the school include a high board-member turnover and a tenuous financial situation.

Tuesday’s commission meeting in Boise went into to a closed session to discuss a “schedule of review” period — essentially how much time should be allotted for the commission and Odyssey to discuss and debate the school’s charter accreditation before a final decision is made.

Tamara Baysinger, the commission’s director, said the commission decided to expedite the final decision process so the school and its students would know sooner whether it would be shut down.

But attorneys for Odyssey argued the Tuesday meeting did not cite the right reason for going into closed session and was not noticed correctly, and, as a result, may have violated Idaho’s open meeting law.

To be safe, Baysinger said the commission plans to re-hold the “schedule of review” meeting today, which delays a final decision. A final meeting on whether to revoke Odyssey’s charter likely would come Wednesday, she said, although it could be longer.

Odyssey administrators have pitched the school as being less-rigid with a project-based curriculum that includes less fact memorization and worksheets. Students have a four-day week.

According to its website, lessons also are based off a bestselling self-help book: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey.

If the school’s charter is revoked, Odyssey officials will have the option to appeal the decision to the State Board of Education. But the school would remain closed through the appeals process, which can last several months, Baysinger said.

Reynolds said parents are beginning to look at options, though “a lot of parents don’t want to put their kids in the public school system.” Home school might be an option for some, she said.

Luke Ramseth can be reached at 542-6763.