Proposed charter school questions abound

JERSEY SHORE – Questions abounded after a proposal for a charter school was presented to the Jersey Shore Area School Board Monday night.

Amy Lorson, Lara Malone, Tracy Kemmerer, Kim Corson and Sarmite Judson, all of Bastress Township, formed the Nippenose Valley Charter School coalition after the school district closed Nippenose Valley Elementary in June. They submitted a formal application for a charter school to the board on Nov. 15.

Board member Kelly Wasson wanted to know what the proposed enrollment was, and Lorson said that they anticipated about 100 students in the first year.

“The data and figures you used for all this information, do you have that with you?” asked board President Robert Pryor.

“Not with us, but we can certainly provide it to you,” said Lorson.

Board member Karen Stover had some concerns with how the school would handle special education needs. The figure of six full-time teachers provided in the coalition’s plan, she said, “does not include special education staff.”

“I’d like to see some more information on that, because it’s not specified and that concerns me,” she said.

Pryor also was questioned the justification for a proposed student/teacher ratio of 15 to 1, as opposed to 22 to 1, which currently is the average in the district. The lower the number of students per teacher, the higher the cost of employing that teacher. Lorson pointed out that charter schools encourage smaller class sizes for the advantage of the student, and that even with the proposed ratio, the school would break even.

Pryor was concerned with some of the other dollar amounts in the school’s financial outline as well.

“You have $100,000 here for legal services, who will provide it and how did you get to that number?” he asked.

“It’s still a very preliminary budget,” Lorson answered.

Pryor wasn’t satisfied.

“We need to see a breakdown,” he said. “The board deserves to see a breakdown of all expenses.”

The board also heard public comment, which was divided.

Janice and John Shireman, of Jersey Shore, were against the idea, arguing that the Jersey Shore Area School District has more than enough resources for its students and that the declining enrollment in Nippenose Valley Elementary – one of the reasons for its closure – proved that the school has “more than enough space” for them.

Dena Shreck, of Limestone Township, on the other hand, was unhappy with her children having been put into other schools when Nippenose was closed.

“I took my son out of Jersey Shore Area Elementary School because I don’t like the bigger classes,” she said. “He’s in cyber school and I’ll keep him there unless this school is approved.”

After public comment, Superintendent Dr. Dorothy Chappel said she was reserving her remarks until more information is exchanged between the coalition and the board, saying the proposal still was “vague.”

The school board now has a period no less than 45 days and no more than 75 days in which to make its decision, although more public hearings are allowed in the interim. Lorson said she anticipates a second hearing, in order to give the public even more information and fully answer the board’s questions.

The meeting and all of the information discussed is a matter of public record, and is available at