Lehigh Valley

Charter school battle in Bethlehem leaves fate of 80 students unknown

Charter school battle leaves fate of 80 students unknown

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - There are just two weeks until middle school classes are set to begin at a Northampton County charter school.

The clock is ticking and the fate of about 80 middle schoolers remains unknown.

The Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School in Bethlehem has state Commonwealth Court approval to operate in two buildings.

But the Bethlehem Area School District is appealing that decision.

The charter school said it is running out of room in its current facility, located in the 500 block of Thomas Street.

It's looking to open a second facility in the 600 block of 6th Street for middle school students.

"It offers us the ability for a science lab, a larger-sized gym and allows students to switch classes like they would in a larger middle school setting," said Lisa Pluchinsky, principal at Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School.

Back in August 2013, the Bethlehem Area School District denied that request, saying it was illegal for a charter school to operate in more than one location.

It also expressed concern with educational achievement.

The charter school appealed to the state's Charter School Appeals Board in August 2013.

The district then filed a Motion to Quash the Appeal in September 2013.

The CAB ruled in favor of the district in October 2013.

The charter school then appealed to the state's Commonwealth Court.

In July 2014, the court ruled the charter school can operate at a second location.

But, the court also remanded the matter back to the Charter Appeals Board.

The district can now argue against the second building for other reasons, including the educational concerns.

The CAB is set to review the case on September 30th.

BASD School Board President Michael Faccinetto said the district plans on fighting the issue further.

"We still believe the law was clear. The Commonwealth Court has tried to rewrite the law basically. So we are going to through the appeal process, and continue to not have this location at this point," said Faccinetto.

Faccinetto said the district has asked for additional Commonwealth Court judges review the case.

The previous ruling was made by three judges.

The district wants to hear from all nine judges.

If there is not a change in the decision, Faccinetto said the district will look to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The middle school students at the charter school were set to start in the second building on August 25.

In the meantime, the charter school plans on meeting with middle school parents.

A meeting is scheduled for Thursday to discuss a modified program.

The school hopes it will not lose any of its currently enrolled students.

"I know them, I love them, I do not want to lose them," Pluchinsky said.

"We are hoping when we meet with parents about our plans to meet the education constraints we have, which is to work out of 551 Thomas Street, all 80 parents are going to say yes," said Carlos Lopez, Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School Board Member.

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