As they hugged goodbye for the summer Wednesday, some of Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy's 500 students wondered if they would all reunite come fall.
In recent months the embattled charter school has been pummeled with setbacks. And so, an often-jubilant end-of-year gathering in the Inver Grove Heights school's gym was tinged with anxiety.
"I sat there wondering if I should tell my kids there's a possibility they might not see their friends again," said Krista Saddiqui, a Burnsville mother of three TiZA students.
Weeks before a June 30 deadline, the school lacks a new authorizer, a state-approved overseer of academics and finances each charter needs to operate.
A two-year legal standoff with the American Civil Liberties Union over charges the public school promoted Islam is heading to trial. Meanwhile, the state and the school's current overseer - former co-defendants who settled with the ACLU - are seeking about $1.6 million in legal costs from TiZA.
School officials say they are tackling the crises one at a time.
"It's kind of nerve-wracking because you don't know if the school is going to be open or not," said seventh-grader Aisha Tahir. "Everybody is uneasy."
Saddiqui signed up for Google Alerts to track news stories about the school, and recent headlines have filled her with angst, she said.
A federal judge shot down a last-minute push by the TiZA legal team to have the ACLU lawsuit dismissed, clearing the way for a fall trial. A district court judge dismissed a lawsuit TiZA filed against the state and its authorizer, Islamic Relief USA, claiming they are obstructing efforts to secure a new overseer.
Last week, the Department of Education rejected an application by the school's would-be overseer, citing conflicts of interest and other concerns. The authorizer, Novation Education Opportunities, submitted a revised application Wednesday.
Again and again, Saddiqui has turned to TiZA officials for reassurance: "June 30 --- that deadline is tick-ticking away. They know we need some answers."
Asad Zaman, the school's executive director, said he is unsure what happens if June 30 finds the school without a new authorizer. He plans to kick off summer school June 27 as scheduled.
"If the state wants to come in and kick students out, they can do that," he said.
Still, rumors of the school's demise have plagued parents such as Shahzia Tahir, Aisha's mom, who speak highly of TiZA's high academic expectations and welcoming atmosphere. The school serves predominantly minority and low-income students.
"There's so much chaos, confusion and uncertainty," Tahir said, adding, "We feel helpless."
Students have picked up on the uncertainty, too. Aisha said she and her classmates worked extra hard to prepare for standardized tests this spring.
"Maybe if we got really good test scores, they won't close the school," Aisha said students reasoned.
At Wednesday's end-of-school ceremony, 32 students got medals for scoring in the top 1 percent nationally on the Northwest Evaluation Association math, reading and science tests - to raucous clapping and shrieks from classmates. An additional 20 students on the school's Blaine campus were recognized earlier that day.
"As a school, we've gone through a lot this year, but every minute was worth it," eighth-grader Lujain Alkhawi said in a speech.
Despite the turmoil, enrollment has been brisk this spring, Zaman said. The school, with waiting lists in the hundreds, is full for fall.
"Parents are concerned," he said, "but they are not holding off because they know they will lose their spots."
Saddiqui, the Burnsville mom, researched a few other charter schools and considered home-schooling. She also appealed to Minnesota's education commissioner and local state legislators on behalf of TiZA.
"Expecting the best, planning for the worst - that's what I am doing," she said.