Meadville Tribune

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July 18, 2014

County supports Spartansburg charter school proposal

MEADVILLE — Saying they recognize the need for the Spartansburg area to develop its own elementary school, Crawford County commissioners have gone on record in support of the community’s plan — and commissioners will continue to explore whether the county may be able to help financially.

Spartansburg and neighboring Sparta Township residents are attempting to form their own elementary school for the 2015-16 school year in the wake of Corry Area School District’s decision to close Spartansburg Elementary School in June as a cost-cutting move.

“It drives a lot in terms of community,” Commissioner Jack Lynch, vice chairman of county commissioners, said of local elementary schools prior to Thursday’s unanimous vote by Commissioners Lynch, C. Sherman Allen and Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr.

Commissioners voted to draft a letter of support for backers of the Spartansburg Charter School to submit with the proposed school’s application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The motion in support of the school also directed the county’s attorney, Ted Watts, to review ways the county may support the school — if it is financially prudent.

That school application is expected to be submitted to the state Department of Education in August for review, Scott Morton, spokesman for the school group, told commissioners Thursday. Morton said the local group anticipates a possible appeal of the charter school application by the Corry Area School District, a process that could run through November.

“We thank the commissioners for the support,” Morton said following the vote.

Spartansburg and Sparta Township in northeastern Crawford County are part of the Corry Area School District, which covers parts of Erie, Crawford and Warren counties.

With the closure of Spartansburg’s elementary school, 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.

Spartansburg area residents sought county government’s support in the community’s development of its own charter elementary school for grades kindergarten through sixth grade by fall 2015 with an estimated 120 students.

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.

To help get the school off the ground, backers are seeking a possible loan through the county.

When Spartansburg community officials made a presentation to the county July 1, an estimated $500,000 was 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.

However, those initial upfront costs for the school may not be as high as $500,000 after a preliminary review with charter school management companies. Morton has said potential funding may come from other sources as well.

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