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Allentown School District to absorb students from closing charter school

By Emily Thiel, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 06 2012 10:26:05 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 07 2012 05:45:51 AM CST
Auditor general: Vitalistic Therapeutic misused tax money

  

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Due to violating its charter, the Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School (VTCS) of the Lehigh Valley will be closing January 25, 2013, and Allentown School District is preparing to introduce the charter students into its schools.

The Allentown School District Education and Committee of the Whole voted unanimously to hire as many as four special education teachers, four para-professionals and one behavior specialist position in order to assist with the additional students from Vitalistic.

Based on the first three months of VTCS operation, the annual cost to Allentown School District would be around $951,752.

If the district needs to hire all nine teachers, it will cost Allentown $493,032. The cost is about half of what it would cost the district for the students who live in the Allentown District to attend the charter school.  Possible transportation of the students are not factored into the cost. The positions will begin second semester, January 2013.

"This is grant money of course.  If we hire them, they are permanent positions," said Superintendent Russell Mayo, "We will hire the positions to match what we see happening."

There are 88 students who attend VTCS that will be attending the Allentown District in grades K - 3.

Of the 88 students anticipated to be integrated into the district, 45 have at risk issues. Twenty-eight of the expected students have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), 16 of the students need evaluations, and 12 of the students are at risk and will need to be monitored in how they acclimate.

The IEPs are portable from Vitalistic to the Allentown School District, but the district was strongly encouraged to reevaluate students upon their entrance to the new school.

The highest impact will be to Moser Elementary, who is expecting 21 additional students. All other elementary schools would have anywhere from two to 10 additional students.

The charter school, which served both the Allentown and Bethlehem areas, violated its charter terms and conditions on a number of factors. The school was not operating at capacity of 120 students as it had only 93 enrolled.

The school has not provided English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) introduction, not been compliant with special education laws and failed to provide the proper mental health services that were originally agreed upon.

The Board of Trustees from the charter have not been in attendance at any of the Allentown School Board meetings within the last year. The school also failed to provide documentation of federal funds, proper employee retirement contributions and had staff working without pay in the last year.

The Vitalistic Therapeutic Charter School also has not incorporated a standard aligned system of curriculum, instruction, assessment, materials, resources and interventions, have not filed complete academic ethic statements and failed at meeting a minimum of 900 hours of instructional time.

Parents of students at Vitalistic have received letters from Allentown School District encouraging them to enroll in the district, but Deborah Hartman, Executive Director of Special Education, stated several parents are unaware the charter school is closing.

Hartman was informed that other local charter schools are full, and not accepting new students.

Allentown School District has sent out welcome letters to parents and will be following up with phone calls about the enrollment process. Parents need to follow up and enroll their child in the school district in order to have their child attend.