Charter School Proposed for Phelps, Ontario County

- A move to bring a charter school to a small, rural district is sparking debate.  Supporters want to open a charter school in the town of Phelps, located in the Midlakes School District.  It would serve children from Ontario, Wayne and Seneca counties.  Hundreds turned out for a hearing in Phelps Tuesday night. 
Residents in three counties representing nine area school districts weighed in on the possibility of a charter school in the Finger Lakes.  It's more than a year away from becoming reality.  It needs approval from the state and taxpayers first.

Charter schools  are un-chartered territory in these parts. 

"My whole goal for this evening was really to learn more about the charter school and to find out more about the impact it would have on local school funding," said Janet Clendenen, Seneca Falls.

Donna Bennett of Canandaigua  proposed opening an alternative to public schools the "Classical Charter School of the Finger Lakes" to be located in Phelps. 

"I'm in favor of it.  I think we definitely need a change from Midlakes.  I graduated from Midlakes and I didn't go to college afterwards.  I didn't do much," said Kaleigh Hoad, charter school proponent.

Not everyone is sold on the idea.  Charter schools are tuition free public schools that rely solely on state aid.  Area superintendents fear the loss in per-student state aid could be devastating to their budgets.

"We would have to either drain the budget, as far as reserves or like Mr. Ford said, we'd have to cut our sports, we'd have to cut out arts, music, library.  Or high school electives.  And as he suggested, ya know, what do you do then?  Send the kids home at noon when there's no electives at high school?" said Sandy Hey, charter school opponent.

The school that Bennett proposed would serve about two hundred students in grades k thru 6.

"I attended because I'm concerned about the financial impact it will have on all of the surrounding districts.  Many of whom I work with on a day to day basis.  And although I think the opportunity for choice is good, the financial impact is going to be, as you've seen tonight, devastating on some of the surrounding districts," said Jeffrey Trout, Seneca Falls.

The state is expected to render its decision in June.

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