Charter school discussed in Jersey Shore

JERSEY SHORE – The Jersey Shore Area School Board held a special meeting Monday night to hear consideration for a charter school at the site of the former Nippenose Valley Elementary School, which was closed in June.

“It went about as expected,” said Amy Lorson, of Limestone Township, one of the founders of the Nippenose Valley Charter School coalition. “It’s still really early in the process, in the beginning stages, so of course the board had some questions.”

Lorson, along with Lara Malone, Tracy Kemmerer, Kim Corson and Sarmite Judson, all of Bastress Township, made a presentation to the school board in support of a charter school, which included an overview of the school’s proposed mission and educational goals, financial plans and legislative intent, or how it might affect local taxpayers.

Charter schools are those that are open to the public and receive funds from the school district in which they are located, but are not part of that district and are managed privately by a board of trustees. They also receive funding from the state and federal level like traditional schools.

Lorson gave the board an overview of charter schools and some of the advantages that they offer, such as smaller class sizes, increased one-on-one attention from teachers, more parent involvement and more flexibility and creativity with curriculum.

“It’s an opportunity to teach a little differently, to think outside the box,” said Kemmerer.

In her presentation, Lorson explained that charter schools often see more success with both individual achievements and standardized test scores. For the 2011-2012 school year, charter schools in Pennsylvania achieved 59 percent Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, while traditional schools achieved only 49 percent.

Adequate Yearly Progress is how student progress in key areas like reading and math is measured under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Lorson also outlined how state funding is distributed to charter schools and their school districts. In the state of Pennsylvania, a school district will retain roughly 1/3 of the state funding awarded to that district and the rest goes to the charter school. For example, if $42,000 is being awarded to Jersey Shore, the school district would give $28,000 to the charter school and retain $14,000. The state also provides grants for transitional assistance to school districts for the first year of a charter school’s existence.

Kemmerer said that parent involvement, which is highly encouraged in charter schools, can only be positive for all involved – the children, teachers and parents. “Research shows that more parent involvement results in higher grades, higher test scores, and higher self-esteem,” she said.