Jersey Shore charter school proposal criticized

JERSEY SHORE – Residents voiced their opposition to the proposal to open a charter school in Nippenose Valley at Monday night’s Jersey Shore Area School Board meeting.

“People in my region are undereducated. They don’t realize that the charter school will cost public money,” Shelley Helm, of Piatt Township, said.

A grass roots coalition filed an application in November to lease the former Nippenose Valley Elementary School as a charter school. As lessor, the district would be responsible for building upkeep, according to Matt Branca, of Smith Street.

“One of the reasons Nippenose was closed was to save the school district funds. It’s unreasonable to expect the district to pay for what essentially is a private school,” Branca said.

Building renovations could cost between $1 million and $4 million the first year alone, according to borough resident John Shireman.

“We’re already paying for one charter school, we don’t need to add another one,” Shireman said.

The charter school’s proposed budget vastly underestimates costs, according to Branca.

“They’ve budgeted $10,000 per year for a school nurse. From what I understand, a school nurse costs about $10,000 a month,” Branca said.

An annual budget of $1,800 was allocated for supporting students with special needs, according to Branca.

“Just two children’s speech therapy would cost more than $1,800 per year, let alone the cost to support 100 students,” Branca said.

With less than two months to make a decision on the charter school application, the clock is ticking for the school board.

“There needs to be more information available. Questions that come up at the public meeting should be addressed by the charter school committee,” Branca said.

The school board held a closed executive session after the meeting to discuss the charter school application, according to Superintendent Dr. Dorothy Chappel. The board will announce their next steps “soon,” Chappel said.

The next school board meeting will be held 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the administration building.