North Penn board considers charter school presentations
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.