State not investigating Arlington Country Day School for fraud

Records: State cut off access to some scholarship funding due to paperwork snafu

By Colette DuChanois - Web producer, Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer, Ethan Calloway - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A now-shuttered private school in Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood is not being investigated for fraud, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education confirmed to News4Jax on Wednesday. 

Arlington Country Day School suddenly shut down Friday. The closure of the K-12 school left parents of students struggling to get answers. 

Florida Department of Education records show the state cut off funding from three scholarships because of poor record keeping, especially student medical records. 

The spokeswoman said the education department had no idea Arlington County Day School was having problems with student record keeping before October, and it is not investigating ACD for fraud.

"We have no current fraud investigation," the spokeswoman said. "The school still has a window to appeal pursuant to the department's administrative action."

A copy of a Jan. 19 administrative complaint shows school staff could not produce documentation -- for items like birth certificates, Social Security numbers, health screenings, immunization records, among others -- for a number of students during a fall visit.

RELATED: Answers scarce for Arlington Country Day School parents

The same complaint indicates the state repeatedly put the school on notice, once in October and again in November, and gave administrators 20- and 30-day windows, respectively, to make those records available. They missed both deadlines to provide that paperwork.

The issue culminated in the January complaint, in which Education Commissioner Pam Stewart notified principal Deborah Condit that the school would no longer be eligible to receive funding from the John M. McKay, Florida Tax Credit and Gardiner scholarship programs.

Stewart gave Condit 15 days from that point to challenge the suspension, and provided an itemized list of the documents the school needed to produce to restore its scholarship eligibility. But one week after Condit received that letter, the school closed for good.

Parents who spoke with News4Jax contend that scholarship funding from the state was a critical source of school funding, and the only way their their children could afford to attend the private school. Without it, they claim, the school could no longer afford to operate.

According to information from the Florida Department of Education, the amount of money ACD was receiving from scholarship programs dwindled over the last 10 years.

Records show that Arlington Country Day received more than $5.4 million from the McKay Scholarship Program since 2008, but the funds had been trending lower the last several years. 

In 2010, it dropped to $700,000. 

In the current school year, it was down to $289,000. 

It's unclear whether that was because the school's enrollment numbers also decreased, or because students were receiving scholarships from other places. 

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