Meadville Tribune

Local News

July 2, 2014

Spartansburg eyes charter school, may seek $350K loan from county

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

Spartansburg and neighboring Sparta Township residents are seeking 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.

A half dozen Spartansburg area residents representing the proposed school and the Spartansburg Education Foundation were at Tuesday’s work session of county commissioners to seek the county’s support. Commissioners took no action at the work session.

Starting in this fall, elementary school students from the Spartansburg area will be sent up to 20 miles to one of three other elementary schools within the Corry district, according to Scott Morton, spokesman for the community group.

The group proposes a kindergarten through sixth grade charter school with 120 students, starting in the fall of 2015, Morton told commissioners. The school would have approximately 25 jobs, covering teachers, administration and support staff.

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.

The Spartansburg Education Foundation, a nonprofit foundation, has been formed to help develop the school, Morton said.

The Spartansburg community is seeking a letter from the county to support its charter school application with local and state officials and possible financial support as well, Morton said.

An 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 members but another $350,000 is needed by spring of 2015, Morton said.

“We’re not here to ask for a free ride,” Morton said.

Morton asked county commissioners to consider either a possible direct loan of $350,000 for up to five years or the backing of the group if it seeks financing.

Morton said the $364,000 the township and borough pay annually in county real estate tax revenue would cover the loan risk.

Like public schools, charter schools are funded the same way district-run public schools are funded, through tax dollars. Sparta Township and Spartansburg pay approximately $1 million in real estate taxes to Corry School District, which would be used toward the charter school, Morton said.

Following the meeting, Morton told the Tribune a possible location for the Spartansburg charter school would be at Valley View Mennonite Church in Sparta Township.

County commissioners aren’t expected to act on the request at their meeting Thursday, Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. told the Tribune following the work session.

Weiderspahn said he wanted more information before seeking a vote on the matter.

“I don’t know if we can do it,” Weiderspahn said, noting it may be an economic development issue.

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