RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A report from the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor found a state charter school falsified student enrollment records and misused thousands of dollars.

The Office of the State Auditor said it received six allegations through its hotline concerning Bridges Academy. The allegations ranged from concerns about tax reporting to its use of state funds and enrollment reporting. In the initial stages of their investigation, the school’s board of directors made the decision to permanently close both the charter school and the preschool.

“On June 30, 2021, Bridges Academy relinquished its charter in response to “financial irregularities” and what the Board deemed to be insurmountable financial challenges,” the auditor’s report said.

Bridges Academy was founded in 1996. It expanded by opening a preschool in 2020. Located in State Road, the school had an average annual enrollments of 166 students. The school accepted students from Surry, Wilkes, Yadkin Alleghany counties, along with Elkin City.

Findings

The state audit report found the school:

  • Falsified student enrollment records to obtain $404,971 in state funding for which it was not entitled. The report found the school inflated enrollment by about 40 percent, or 72 students.
  • Bridges Academy misused $78,576 of charter school funding to improperly support a preschool. The report found charter school funds were not tracked separately from the preschool.
  • Bridges Academy failed to prepare and submit required 1099 tax forms in 2019 and 2020 resulting in underreported compensation of $489,534.

Recommendations

Along with these findings, the state auditor’s office made the following recommendations:

  • DPI should seek repayment of $404,971 from Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, for the state funds received as a result of the falsified student enrollment records.
  • DPI should consider reviewing the enrollment history of Bridges Academy and determine if the school received funding for falsified students in previous years.
  • DPI should seek repayment of $78,576 from Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, for state charter school funds that were utilized to support the preschool.
  • Bridges Academy, or the Receiver, should seek the assistance of a Certified Public Accountant to prepare and file the required 1099 tax forms for contractors (director, instructional, and support staff).