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Audit: School district may owe state money for Internet classes

The Federal Way School District is working with the state after auditors determined that Federal Way, along with Steilacoom and Quillayute school districts, may owe the state money for incorrectly documenting the number of students taking Internet classes.

The district won’t know how much money, if any, it owes the state for about a year, Chief Financial Officer Sally McLean said.

Federal Way’s Internet Academy has been around since 1996, and is the oldest in Washington state.

The audit, which began more than a year ago, was released on Nov. 3.

McLean said the audit found areas where Federal Way wasn’t following the letter of the law; the district can either change its policy or work with the state to change the rules.

In the sample testing, auditors estimated that the state overpaid Federal Way schools by about $28,000. Taking all Internet students into account, the auditors then extrapolated that amount to $1 million, saying that could be what Federal Way owes the state.

“We will spend time working through that issue,” McLean said. “We don’t necessarily concur.”

Part of the problem came with the recent change in the way schools count students who take Internet classes. Federal Way was involved in the process and district officials thought that they understood the process, McLean said.

“We’re heavily invested,” McLean said. “We thought we knew what was expected.”

One of the items that Federal Way schools got dinged for was not sending home releases for every student who takes a class with the Internet Academy. The release seeks confirmation from parents saying they understood that their children weren’t being home-schooled.

The district thought the release was unnecessary in some cases, such as with students at Todd Beamer High School who took one class through the Internet Academy while still at the Todd Beamer campus, McLean said.

“It didn’t make sense,” McLean said of making those students sign the form. “It’s kinda like a big duh.”

The Internet Academy serves two types of students: Those who are full students of the program and are then state claimed; and students who are claimed by another school and are just taking one class at the Internet Academy (these students pay tuition for the program).

Typically, resolving audits takes about a year, McLean said.

However, since there are three school districts involved along with a great deal of money, the case may be moved up on a faster track, she said.

Contact Kyra Low: klow@fedwaymirror.com

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