Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem Township may be host to charter school in 2023

BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. - Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School plans to build a $50 million school in Bethlehem Township that would open in 2023, the township commissioners heard Monday night.

The charter school would pay about $5 million for a tract east of Butztown Road in the township, and spend about $50 million on construction for a total of about $55 million. LVA operates now in leased space on Valley Center Parkway in Hanover Township, and had considered another site in Hanover (Northampton County) before reaching an agreement of sale with the estate of Frederick Jaindl for 55 acres in Bethlehem Township.

Susan Mauser, chief executive of LVA, said the school will avoid rising costs by putting up its own building.

Martin Smith, president of the board of trustees, said the township location will be more suited to education and be less of a corporate atmosphere.

"We can fix our costs" Mauser said before the meeting by avoiding increasing rent at the current location. The new school would be open in August 2023.

Mauser and Smith said the project would be funded by bond sales.

S&P Global Ratings said in a report in January that the credit-rating outlook on charter schools was stable, though "The nature of the sector lends itself to inherent risk and volatility, where charter nonrenewal or revocations can affect credit quality swiftly."

S&P said political changes at the state level could lead to "material implications" for charter schools, though established schools suffer less credit volatility.

"We are already working with an underwriter" for a bond issue, Smith said after the meeting.

Lehigh Valley Academy is well-established, Mauser said before the meeting.

"By the time we move, we would have been open 23 years," she said. The debt service on the bonds would be paid by the tuition payments local school districts make to the school.

LVA has about 1,760 students and 255 employees, she said. Just more than 1,000 are from the Bethlehem Area School District, and students come from another 16 districts.

The brief presentation on Monday was informal, and precedes all the planning and zoning required for construction.

RELATED: Commissioners hear details on proposed medical marijuana dispensary in Bethlehem Twp.

In other business, residents of Christian Springs Road complained about truck traffic, speeding cars and road noise along their narrow road. Council member Malissa Davis said the residents' woes are the result of GPS on trucks "that put them on roads that can't handle trucks."

Township Manager Doug Bruce said he would alert the police department to the issue.

Later, a Christian Springs Road resident who lives across from the proposed site of the marijuana dispensary said Justice Grown will only add to their problems.

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