Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School in South Side Bethlehem has outgrown its original location and now requests relocation from the local school board. They need to relocate their entire Thomas Street location.
At the moment the students in the seventh and eighth grades were forced to go to their home schools temporarily. The school is requesting for relocation but two separate legal battles are hampering their bid for expansion to a new location.
The charter school requests the Bethlehem Area School District to have their charter amended and allow the move of the entire school into the new location. At the same time the school is negotiating a deal to renovate and move into the building that once was occupied by the Lehigh Valley High School for the Arts. The arts school is leaving their current location at 675 E. Broad Street and move to their new school in South Side Bethlehem located at Third and Polk Streets. On Monday, Dual Language presented their proposals to the Bethlehem Area School Board and the school’s principal, Lisa Pluchinsky told the board that the finer details of the lease are being ironed out.
Superintendent Joseph Roy wants the finalized lease to be submitted to the board early, promising to try and include it in the district’s agenda in May.
The School for the Arts building needs to be renovated to fit the younger students’ needs, according to the principal. They have to build a kitchen, cafeteria and bathrooms. The kitchen is necessary because 90 percent of their students qualify for reduced and free lunch. The space occupied by the theater would be the ideal space for the school gym. Half of the renovations cost will be shared by the landlord.
The Lehigh Valley Dual Language Schools hopes they could take over the building’s lease around the middle of November. While a mid-school year move is not ideal, the principal said many opportunities will be provided by the new space.
Based on their charter, they would be able to house a maximum of 450 students in the new school. Their proposed lease will have them occupy nearly 43,000 square feet of the building, which will enable them to have 19 regular classrooms, one classroom for English language learners and one classroom for learning support. They can also house all the school’s offices and kindergarten through eighth grades in the new school, which they are not able to do in their current location. The business offices of the school are presently housed in West Bethlehem’s former Seton Academy.
School’s legal woes
The charter school had been requesting for expansion for some time. Bethlehem had however challenged their bids, saying that charters outside of Philadelphia are prohibited to operate in multiple locations according to state law.
For the lease of the new space, the payment for 2015-16 would be $472,857. This would rise by 3.5 percent per annum until 2018 and the payment beyond that would depend on the renewal of the school’s charter.
In November last year the school board had rejected the Dual Language’s request to expand to Seton Academy. The charter school then appealed to Pennsylvania’s Charter School Appeal Board, which the district tried to invalidate. The appeal board denied the request of the district and gave the charter school a chance to argue their case.
The Dual Language charter school also applied to expand to Bridle Path Road but that was also rejected by the Bethlehem school board. Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School made several appeals before the Commonwealth Court finally agreed to them and sent their case to the appeals board once again.
Dr. Joseph Roy said that it is likely that the school board will look at the new proposals favorably.