Meadville Tribune

Local News

July 16, 2014

Spartansburg charter school plan may win county commissioners' backing

MEADVILLE — Crawford County commissioners should vote Thursday on backing the Spartansburg community’s plan to develop its own elementary school — but whether the county may provide financial support remains to be seen.

“We will vote on Thursday,” Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. said to seven supporters of the proposed school at Tuesday’s weekly work session of commissioners.

Questioned following the work session, Weiderspahn told the Tribune the vote could be one of a letter of support or one including financial backing as well.

The Spartansburg community wants the county’s support — including a possible $350,000 loan through the county — to develop its own elementary school in the northeastern Crawford County community by fall 2015.

Spartansburg and neighboring Sparta Township residents are attempting to form their own elementary school in the wake of Corry Area School District’s decision to shut down Spartansburg Elementary School in June as a cost-cutting move. Spartansburg and Sparta Township are part of the Corry Area School District.

On July 1, a half dozen Spartansburg area residents representing the proposed charter school and the Spartansburg Education Foundation attended that day’s commissioners work session in an effort to seek the county’s support. Charter school group supporters returned to Tuesday’s commissioner work session, continuing to ask for support.

Charter schools are public, tuition-free, nonsectarian schools that may not discriminate in admission of students. They operate under an agreement between the charter school and the local school board.

The “charter” establishing each school is a legal agreement detailing the school’s mission, programs, methods of assessment, finances and measures of success.

Spartansburg wants to establish its own elementary school because starting in September of this year, elementary students from the Spartansburg area will be sent up to 20 miles to one of three other elementary schools within the Corry district.

The community has proposed a kindergarten through sixth grade charter school with 120 students starting in fall 2015. The school would have approximately 25 jobs, covering teachers, administration and support staff.

The Spartansburg community is seeking at least a letter of support from the county in its charter school application, which must be sent to local and state officials. The application is due in November.

Community officials originally estimated $500,000 will be needed in upfront costs for materials, supplies and cash flow until the school is established. There has been $150,000 in loans pledged from the community. Organizers say another $350,000 is needed by spring 2015.

However, in a telephone interview Tuesday, Scott Morton, spokesman for the school group, said those numbers were being updated.

“We may not need as much,” Morton said, noting initial upfront costs for the school may not be as high as $500,000 after a preliminary review with charter school management companies. Morton also said potential funding may come from other sources.

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