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Enrolled Students' Future Unclear

“Gardner decision being appealed as students enroll”
by Sarah Hofius Hall
Scranton Times-Tribune
March 5, 2012

The Howard Gardner School for Discovery is now accepting applications for the fall, for its first year as a charter school.

But the school’s future is not entirely clear, as officials from the Scranton and Abington Heights school districts have appealed a state decision that grants the school its charter.

After both districts denied the now-private school’s charter application last year, the state’s Charter Appeals Board reversed those decisions in the fall, and the parties received the official written decision from the board last month.

Now the Commonwealth Court will review the state’s decision, Scranton solicitor John Minora said. Scranton has also requested a stay, which would prohibit the school from opening until the case is resolved. The court would have to make that decision.

As of Friday afternoon, the state had not received notice of the appeals. Unless a stay is granted, the school can open as scheduled, said Timothy Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

Charter schools are self-managed public schools that must either be approved by public school districts or by the state under an appeal. The schools are free for students to attend, and districts must pay tuition to charter schools if their students opt to enroll.

Abington Heights Superintendent Michael Mahon, Ph.D., said the district’s attorneys have also found merit in launching an appeal.

As the appeals make it through the court system, the school is going to continue to accept applications, said Vincent Rizzo, director of the school.

Between re-enrolling current students and enrolling children whose parents are on the school’s founder’s list, the school is already near capacity, Mr. Rizzo said.

Three children are on a waiting list, but depending on the grade level, spots may be available. Applications are now being accepted through the end of March from anyone in the community, though preference will be given to students from the Scranton and Abington Heights school districts. A lottery will be conducted in April to give students a number on the waiting list.

The school is now searching for a new building in Scranton, and if one is secured, more spots will open, Mr. Rizzo said. At its present North Scranton location, enrollment is limited to 158 or 159 students. A new school may hold 170 to 180 students, he said.

“We’re simply hoping that at some point and time we get another building,” he said.

In the meantime, interviews for positions such as school counselor and school nurse have been held, and Mr. Rizzo has been busy fielding calls from interested parents.

“We’re doing all of the things to open July 1” as a charter, he said.

Applications are available at http://howardgardner