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Kings Valley Charter School is considering a district boundary change in order to transfer its sponsorship from the Philomath School District to the Falls City School District. 

Philomath Express file

Kings Valley Charter School is holding a meeting to gather public input while it considers a change of the district boundary to become part of the Falls City School District.

The charter school is currently sponsored by the Philomath School District, but the two entities have a contentious relationship.

“We do not believe the Philomath School District has our kids’ best needs at heart,” said Beth Hoinacki, Kings Valley Charter School board member.

The school board is holding a meeting 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the Kings Valley Charter School Gym, 38840 Kings Valley Hwy. The board will provide information on the possible boundary change, answer questions and receive feedback from the public. This is the second public input meeting the board has held this summer on the topic.

The proposed change stems from problems the charter school and the Philomath School District have had in the past. The charter school sued the school district in 2012, claiming that the district withheld some of the money that the school was owed from the state due to its status as a rural school.

The district responded by filing its own legal action on an unrelated matter. The district accused the school of violating its charter agreement by contracting with People Sustaining Kings Valley, a nonprofit organization, to hire teachers outside the state system as a way of avoiding paying into the Public Employees Retirement System. The district issued a notice of termination to the school.

The entities reached an agreement in late 2012, calling for the charter school to withdraw the lawsuit and for the district to rescind the notice of intent to terminate the charter. The agreement, which followed a six-hour mediation session, also resolved the two main points of contention between the school and the district.

The groups agreed to a 50/50 split of rural school money for the duration of the charter, which was extended by 10 years as part of the agreement.

But, Hoinacki said the Philomath School District is still withholding too much of the state money it is entitled to for being a remote school. This affects the long-term stability of the school by negatively impacting teacher retention and program development, she said.

She said the 2012 agreement was negotiated while the charter school was under the threat of being shut down.

“We had no power and no control,” she said. “So we agreed to terms we didn’t feel were fair.”

In early 2016, the charter school started thinking about changing its sponsorship to the Falls City School District. Hoinacki said transferring the school’s sponsorship to Falls City through a district boundary change would increase the charter’s budget by up to $300,000. This is because Falls City would allocate to the charter school more of the rural school funds than the Philomath School District currently is, she said.

Attempts by the Gazette-Times to reach the Falls City School District for comment were unsuccessful.

The charter school’s budget for the 2017-18 school year is estimated at $1.9 million, Hoinacki said. The school has about 200 students. 

At the previous community meeting on the boundary change, some public members raised concerns about enrollment since preference is given to students who live in the district, Hoinacki said. Some individuals were also concerned about the school identity changing, since the charter school currently identifies with the Philomath community.

Rick Wells, a Philomath School District board member, said he is fine with the charter school’s possible sponsorship change. But, he expressed concerns about how the new boundary line would be drawn and the affects it could have on the Philomath School District’s tax base. He said he hopes the new boundary lines would create a tax base that is “equitable” to both school districts.

“If they work out some sort of agreement to have Falls City as a sponsor, we wouldn’t begrudge them any,” Wells said.

Hoinacki said proposed new boundary lines are still under consideration. The charter school’s board will decide at its August meeting whether to submit a proposal to change the boundary to the Philomath and Falls City school districts, she said.

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