The Conestoga Valley school board denied a proposed charter school Monday, saying the school didn’t earn enough support in the community.
TLC Leadership Charter School, which could have served up to 200 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have mental health issues, was rejected by an 8-1 vote.
Leaders of the proposed charter school were not surprised by the outcome.
“Well, we’re disappointed. But it’s not unexpected at all,” GT Freeman, CEO of the Lincoln Center for Family and Youth, a Montgomery County-based social services organization which sought to create the school, told LNP following the vote.
“In fact,” he said, “when we started this journey a year ago, we knew that it would come to this night. And we knew that there was a very high probability that it would be denied.”
Freeman said his team will appeal the decision to the state charter school appeal board.
The school, which was modeled after a private school in Montgomery County the organization also manages, would have offered trauma-informed teaching and daily group counseling sessions.
Brick and mortar charter schools must be approved by the district in which they will be located. The school would have been the county’s second such school, with La Academia Partnership Charter School in Lancaster city being the first.
But TLC quickly received backlash because its application to the district stated that 75% of its students would come from School District of Lancaster, not Conestoga Valley.
Lancaster school officials have followed the vote closely. Superintendent Damaris Rau told LNP after Monday’s vote that she was pleased with Conestoga Valley’s decision.
“That was a concern from the beginning because their application clearly stated that they intended to target SDoL students,” she said. “So when we read that, we were quite surprised that they would not have applied to us and, instead, we saw it as a run around to come to CV.”
Rau added: “I’m appreciative that CV noted that there was no support from the CV community. But obviously there was no support from the SDoL community either.”
Included in the charter school application was a document listing 65 parents who supported the school; however, only two of those parents lived in CV.
It came down to the lack of support, as well as concerns over the school’s management, according to a written statement from CV Superintendent Dave Zuilkoski.
The school “lacks the required demonstrated, sustainable support within” the district and “would not serve as a model for other public schools,” he said.
The one member who voted in support of the charter school, Charles Maines, declined to comment following the meeting.
At a previous meeting, TLC attorney Brian Leinhauser of the MacMain Law Group said the charter school didn’t apply to School District of Lancaster because of a better location and suitable space in Conestoga Valley.
TLC Leadership officials now will go through the appeals process, which will require drumming up more support in the Conestoga Valley area and collecting the signatures to prove it.
“We are committed to be in this for the long haul and to go through the entire process,” Freeman said. “So this is just the beginning.”