Charter school application filed

JERSEY SHORE – Less than six months after the Jersey Shore Area School Board voted to close Nippenose Valley Elementary School, a group of community members have filed an application with the district to possibly reopen the building as a charter school.

In the application made available to the Sun-Gazette by former board member John Shireman and submitted to the school district on Nov. 15, a group of seven individuals have proposed opening the Nippenose Valley Charter School in September 2014. The school would be a public, non-profit school educating students in grade levels kindergarten through fifth.

The application goes on to say that an estimate of about 100 children would attend the school in the first year. It also estimates that there would be 146 students enrolled by the 2018-19 school year. It says that a sampling of the Nippenose Valley community indicated that “a large percentage” of residents were in favor of the charter school.

Amy Lorson, who is one of the individuals named on the application as a founder of the school, said she conducted interviews with parents of school-aged children and residents of the area to base the projections off of.

“From speaking with a lot of people in the area, there is a strong interest in still providing elementary education in the valley,” she said.

For the first year, the school’s budget would be about $1.1 million, with $800,000 coming from the Jersey Shore school district, according to the proposal. A cost of $380,000 is set for staffing, which includes six full-time teachers, one part-time teacher, one custodian, one administrative supplement, two full-time support staff and one part-time support staff.

Lorson said those figures were estimates and were based off of the 100 student enrollment projection.

To house the school, the proposal states that their desired facility would be the former Nippenose Valley Elementary School, 7190 S. Route 44 Highway, Jersey Shore. Lorson noted that charter schools have the right to first refusal when it comes to closed schools. The charter school hopes to either purchase or lease the building.

Lorson said she would hope that the school district and charter school would have a good working relationship to benefit students of all schools.

“We would, as far as the charter school goes, we would aim to have open lines of communication with the school district. And hopefully that would also encourage students at the charter school to still be involved with extra curricular activities through the district,” Lorson said.

Dr. Dorothy Chappel, acting superintendent, said the board would discuss the charter school application on a date after the board’s reorganization meeting in December.

According the state Charter School Law, a public hearing by the district school board must occur within 45 days of recipient of an application. The board must wait an additional 45 days after the hearing to vote on accepting or denying the application for a charter school. A decision must be made by the board no more than 75 days following the hearing.

If the application is denied by the board, an appeal may be filed as long as the applicant obtains signatures of either 2 percent or 1,000 residents of the district over the age of 18 years old.

Members of the public discussed the charter school application during Monday’s school board meeting.

Janice Shireman, of the borough, called the application an “assault” on the district. She said the district offers many opportunities for its students, which would be affected if the charter school is approved.

John Shireman said during public comment that raising the amount of money requested for the charter school would require the district to raise real-estate taxes “through the roof.”

“You people have to realize this is going to put a hurt on this community,” he said.

The former elementary school was closed in June by a vote of 7-2 by the school board.