Legal Battle Hinders Lehigh Charter School Relocation

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Due to severe overcrowding and the inability to expand in its current home, the Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School (LVDLCS) is currently seeking approval from the Bethlehem Area School District in Bethlehem to move from 551 Thomas St. to the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts building on East Broad Street. Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts plans to vacate its current building and move to a new facility this summer.

Should the district approve the move, LVDLCS would complete a variety of work on the soon-to-be-vacated space, adding new bathrooms, a kitchen and cafeteria to the existing School for the Arts building. Work would also include converting a theater into a gym and removing practice rooms to increase classroom sizes. Upon completion, the relocated school will contain 19 regular education classrooms, a dedicated area for learning support students and a section for English Language Learners.

However, in its efforts to relocate, the LVDLCS has encountered several legal roadblocks. For example, the building’s current lease states that the building owner is responsible for soliciting bids and hiring out construction work, which would be funded by the charter school. The school would be required to pay 100 percent of construction costs up front, after which it would receive a 50 percent rebate on rent.

Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy, who has requested a legal review of this case, told Lehigh Valley Live that the charter school is using taxpayer dollars to pay for construction projects that haven’t been bid in compliance with state laws governing public school construction.

"It is skirting the law," Roy said of the school. "It may be doing that legally.”

As for LVDLCS’s defense, the charter school has agreed to comply with a legal review to make sure everything is being done according to regulations, announced school principal, Lisa Pluchinsky.

Providing the legal teams involved can agree on the lease language, the school’s relocation and expansion may soon be ready for a board vote, Roy said.