North Penn board con­sid­ers char­ter school pre­sen­ta­tions

North Penn Life - - Opinion - By Jen­nifer Law­son jlaw­son@jour­nalregis­

In the 12 years since the Soud­er­ton Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive opened its doors, it’s won numer­ous statewide awards and hon­ors, and fam­i­lies have re­lo­cated to the Soud­er­ton Area School District to in­crease their chil­dren’s chances of be­ing ad­mit­ted.

Now, the school’s lead­ers want to repli­cate the school in the North Penn School District.

In a pre­sen­ta­tion be­fore the North Penn school board, ad­min­is­tra­tion and the pub­lic Tues­day evening, Wendy Ormsby, di­rec­tor of or­ga­ni­za­tional devel­op­ment and SCSC founder, and Jen­nifer Arevalo, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion and CEO, showed what the North Penn Char­ter School Col­lab­o­ra­tive would look like.

This is one of three pro­posed schools try­ing to se­cure a char­ter within the North Penn School District. Mont­gomery Flex and Ed­u­ca­tion for New Gen­er­a­tions gave their pre­sen­ta­tions Mon­day night.

Ormsby said the success of SCSC led to the de­ci­sion to try to launch a North Penn coun­ter­part.

“North Penn fam­i­lies have been shut out re­cently be­cause of the level of in­ter­est from Soud­er­ton fam­i­lies, and those fam­i­lies get first pref­er­ence,” she said.

Cur­rently, there are about 250 chil­dren on the wait­ing list, and 25 per­cent of those are from the North Penn School District, Ormsby said.

The fo­cus of SCSC is in­di­vid­u­al­ized at­ten­tion — each stu­dent has his or her own learn­ing plan and has the op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue per­sonal in­ter­ests through ex­pe­ri­en­tial, or hands-on, learn­ing.

The pro­posed school would ed­u­cate kinder­garten through eighth grade, and the en­roll­ment would be 85 stu­dents. There would be 15 stu­dents per teacher, Arevalo said.

Par­ents are en­cour­aged to vol­un­teer at least four hours per month at the school, han­dling tasks such as main­te­nance and clean­ing, which helps to keep the or­ga­ni­za­tion lean.

Two lo­ca­tions are be­ing con­sid­ered, 201 Church Road in North Wales, a 19,500-square-foot build­ing that for­merly housed the Lans­dale School of Busi­ness, and 1758 Al­len­town Road in Towa­mencin, a 21,500-square-foot build­ing that was oc­cu­pied by Sears.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion and board asked sev­eral ques­tions about how the school would meet the needs of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents, given that it sup­ports full in­clu­sion and there would be no spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion class­rooms.

Ormsby ex­plained that SCSC has great rooms with dif­fer­ent learn­ing spa­ces where spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers give ex­tra sup­port to stu­dents who need it, and the same would ap­ply to the North Penn ver­sion of the school.

“I can speak as one of those par­ents,” Ormsby said. “Th­ese kids are im­por­tant, val­ued mem­bers of the school and the bar is set very high for them. The rigor, the ac­cep­tance, the en­vi­ron­ment, the cul­ture, the dili­gence, the high bar, it’s re­mark­able. I think any other par­ent of a spe­cial needs stu­dent would say the same.”

Dur­ing the pub­lic com­ment por­tion of the hear­ing, Joe Pugliese, of Towa­mencin, said one of his chil­dren bought a house in the Soud­er­ton Area School District so that his two grand­chil­dren could at­tend SCSC.

“They love go­ing to school there and they per­form ex­tremely well,” he said. “This char­ter school has done an ex­cep­tional job for all the chil­dren en­rolled and I have no rea­son to think they won’t do the same in North Penn.”

Elysha Thompson, of Mont­gomery Town­ship, said one of her sons en­tered SCSC three years be­hind in read­ing, and by the time he reached eighth grade and en­tered pub­lic school, he was only one year be­hind.

“I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for my chil­dren,” she said. “I can’t wait for North Penn res­i­dents to have this op­por­tu­nity.”

Tina Stoll, of Mont­gomery Town­ship, voiced con­cerns about the school, point­ing out that it doesn’t of­fer ath­let­ics or ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties, which are im­por­tant when ap­ply­ing to col­lege.

“North Penn has numer­ous award-win­ning sports teams, an ex­cel­lent drama club, a great for­eign ex­change pro­gram,” she said. “All of th­ese things and more can’t be put in place at a char­ter school, but it would drain fund­ing from North Penn and put those pro­grams in jeop­ardy. It would fi­nan­cially harm our district.”

In 45 to 90 days, the board will an­nounce its de­ci­sion whether or not to grant char­ters to the three en­ti­ties that ap­plied.

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