Posted by Real-Time News.

Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School has agreed to limit the number of Bethlehem Area School District students it enrolls.

The Bethlehem Area School District plans to give Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School a five-year extension after the charter agreed to cap its enrollment of district students.

Monday evening the school board reviewed the K-8 charter school’s academics, financials and operations during a curriculum committee meeting.

School Principal Lisa Pluchinsky answered board questions on behalf of the charter school. Pluchinsky could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The administration is recommending the school’s charter be extended for another five years, Superintendent Joseph Roy said Wednesday morning.

The school is located at 675 E. Broad St. in space formerly occupied by Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts. The charter was not looking to expand beyond its existing overall 450-student enrollment cap.

At Bethlehem’s request, the charter agreed to limit its enrollment of Bethlehem Area students to the current 187 students enrolled, Roy said. This helps the district limit its financial contributions to the charter school.

“They have always had the majority of their students come from other districts, so they were agreeable to that number,” Roy said. “This school recognized that there is a financial burden (to charter schools) and they shared some interest in being willing to work with us, so that was appreciated.”

Charters are privately-operated public schools funded by taxpayers dollars funneled away from a student’s home district. For large districts like Bethlehem, it means major money — almost $27 million this year in Bethlehem — going out the door.

The cap will help the district better budget what it has to send to charter schools each year, Roy said.

The school board is expected to vote to approve the charter extension at its regular board meeting Oct. 23. The charter expires June 30, 2018.

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Bethlehem tried unsuccessfully to implement a similar cap on Lehigh Valley Regional Academy Charter School saying it would save it $1 million annually. The charter school resisted and sued the school.

Eventually, the state Charter Appeals Board granted the new charter without a cap.

The dual language charter school also agreed to align its school calendar with the district’s and reimburse the district for transportation costs on days it is in session when the district is not. In recent years, the school’s calendar has followed the district’s, but now that is formalized, Roy said.

The district’s main financial concern was the fact that its food service operation is not breaking even, Roy said. 

“That’s a challenge for districts,” Roy said, adding Bethlehem Area makes sure local tax dollars don’t support the lunch program.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo and Facebook. Find lehighvalleylive.com on Facebook.