The public hearings are in the books on the new proposed charter school and now it’s time to make a decision. The West Chester Area School board has set the date of Aug. 23 for a vote on whether or not to open Valley Forge Classical Academy in Exton.
Earlier this month the West Chester Area School Board held its second of two public hearings reviewing the school application for the new charter school. During the three-and-a-half-hour meeting, the board remained silent while West Chester Area School District representatives presented their review of the application and applicant Jenifer MacFarland, VFCA board president, gave the school’s response. They then listened as more than 30 members of the public provided comments.
The district, not surprisingly, raised a litany of issues with the application including with:
- the curriculum, which they found to be incomplete and failing to meet state standards
- the facility – there is reportedly no outdoor space or room for a playground
- the budgeting
- the technology plan
- required teacher accreditation, lack of AP classes and substitute policy
- inadequate disciplinary policy, including no plans of expullsions or suspensions
- the inability to properly address diverse student populations.
By way of rebuttal, Ms. MacFarland held that the intent of the charter school law was to provide alternative educational opportunities for students, teachers, faculty, and families. By very definition, her school should be different and in regards to some of the gaps in planning, she has time to fill those in. She is planning to soon hire additional executive staff including a new CEO.
She also apologized for not addressing each concern specifically but noted that was difficult seeing she was hearing them for the first time at the meeting.
“It may have been helpful to receive this report ahead of time to address all the concerns that you had,” she told the district.
Despite the early holes, the school has its fans. Proponents touted the school for providing a choice for families unhappy with the WCASD and unable to send their students to private schools. And Ms. MacFarland stated she was not concerned about enrollment noting she has “ample time” to fill the remaining spots. She expects to be at full enrollment with a waiting list by Aug. 1, 2024.
Opponents, on the otherhand, focused on the school’s curriculum and raised concerns about its preparedness to address marginalized groups including students of color, English as a second language students, special ed students, and LGBTQ students. Both sides brought out their supporters to Tuesday’s meeting. However, most who spoke encouraged the board to deny the application.
All comments and testimony were recorded and will be shared as a written report with school board members. A final vote will be taken at a special board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Fugett Middle School auditorium.
You can find more information about the school on the WCASD website.
Originally published, Aug. 4, 2023
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