Lake County school board could lose $1M in funding over attendance records

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. —

The Lake County School District is being fined more than $1 million for something that's out of their control.

The state is accusing one of Lake County's charter schools of not properly taking attendance, which is significant, because the state gives money to the school based on the amount of students it serves.

According to a 73-page report, administrators at Alee Academy didn't follow the rules in recording attendance properly.

Principal Jennings Neeld needs to account for the 283 students who attended his school this past year, which is dedicated the teaching at-risk youth.

"We know they were here, but we have to have a means to document that and that is a means to do that," said Neeld to Channel 9’s Jorge Estevez.

The last-minute scramble came after the state chose Aldee Academy in Eustis for a routine audit and discovered they had not followed the rules when taking attendance and would now be at risk for losing state funding for each student in class.

“My head starting spinning, my knees got weak, because you are talking about a year’s worth of revenue for the school," said Neeld. 

Now, the staff at Alee Academy is trying to figure out a way to account for the students. They are going through lunch rosters test logs and attendance sheets that marked when students would arrive late for class.

If the school doesn’t resolve the issue or pay the fine, they could go bankrupt and close. That could also affect the entire Lake County School District.

"If the charter school can't show evidence that they did have these students, there could be a possibility where the school district would hold the bag," said Chris Patton, a spokesperson for the Lake County School District.

But the principal is hoping to resolve the issue and keep his school open for a new school year for new students.

 “If we are not here, there is no place for them. They have already been unsuccessful in a traditional environment and what we do is we get them here and we reach out to them before we teach them," said Neeld.

Come Monday, the school will present a plan to the Lake County school board on how they plan on taking attendance in the future to ensure this doesn't happen again.