Young Scholars Charter School Plans to Add Students

The school's officials are applying for a revision of its conditional building use in Baldwin Township so as to increase enrollment.

Officials from the Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School are having no trouble finding students.

In fact, children are on a waiting list to gain admission to the public school found on Newport Drive in Baldwin Township.

But whether or not the school's building will legally be able to hold all of those kids is another matter.

On Tuesday night, Young Scholars President Dr. Melih Demirkan and CEO Alpaslan Ozdogan appeared before the Baldwin Township Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners to officially apply for a revision of the school's conditional use application in the township.

Demirkan said that officials at Young Scholars, which has a current enrollment of just fewer than 180 students, want to add 40 more students for next school year, and they want enrollment to be at 360 students by 2019.

However, as was discussed at township meetings in March 2011, Young Scholars was only approved to operate at 600 Newport Dr. with an enrollment not to exceed 180 students. Should the school ever exceed that number, it would have to gain approval again.

Demirkan is asking for just such approval, arguing that Young Scholars currently uses only about 21,000 of 600 Newport's 30,800 square feet and saying that the school's location and leaders are equipped to handle an enlarged student body.

But not everyone is so sure.

Members of the township Planning Commission decided on Tuesday not to formally recommend an approval of Young Scholars' request to the Board of Commissioners, asking instead that school officials review their plans for handling increases in parking and traffic on and around school grounds.

Concerns ranged from street congestion in the township to the possible inability of emergency workers to service a more crowded area, especially when the school building hosts events like family functions and open houses.

Township solicitor Tom McDermott pointed out that the school's parking lot currently boasts only 47 parking spaces. McDermott said that an increase in student body size would mean an increase in Young Scholars employees, who would need to park on school grounds—not to mention guests that also need parking spaces.

Demirkan said that the school currently employs 25 people, 17 of whom are full-time workers. The school's maximum target number of overall employees, with more students, would be 45.

"There's no question that they will need a revised site plan (for) parking," McDermott said.

Township engineer Glenn Jonnet said that the building's plumbing will also need to be inspected to determine if it could handle an increased workload.

After school officials address the municipal leaders' concerns, they can come back to the Planning Commission with their solutions and ask for another recommendation of approval.

McDermott said that township officials have 100 days to make a decision regarding Young Scholars' application. If they need more time, they'll have to ask the school's leaders for an extension.

Demirkan said that Young Scholars' leaders want to add two sections of kindergarteners every school year until they have students in two sections each of kindergarten through eighth grade. By adding only kindergarteners, the school's population will grow with the children—kindergarteners to first grade, first-graders to second grade and so on. (The school currently has two sections of both kindergarteners and first-graders and one section each of second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.)

Demirkan said that students from the Baldwin-Whitehall School District wishing to enroll at Young Scholars will continue to receive priority in Young Scholars' lottery system over children from other districts. His charter school currently educates students from 16 school districts, he said.

Demirkan does not anticipate Young Scholars as ever educating more than 20 students per grade section, with few exceptions. That represents a continuation of the school's current practice.

Township Commissioner Susan V. Snyder asked Demirkan how his school's officials have become confident enough to plan for 360 students by 2019.

"We have a waiting list," he said. "This year, we stopped ourselves at 180. It's a public school, but it's a huge competition.

"That's why we are here. It's a public service, so we want to do our best and give a good education—a different one from regular public school."

As an entire school, Young Scholars, like the Baldwin-Whitehall School District in its entirety, did not achieve adequate yearly progress during the past school year, as determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams.

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Paula Lim October 03, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Has no one done any background checks on this school? It is a shadow company owned by a very wealthy Turkish cult leader who is living on a huge estate in the Poconos. He is under investigation in many states for his shady financial dealings regarding these charter schools, many of which have been closed due to poor performance, bringing teachers from Turkey who are unqualified to teach, taking loans from the schools which are really our school tax dollars, overpaying the many, many "administrators" on staff, etc. You may be dissatisfied with B-W schools at the moment, but not nearly as dissatisfied as I am with my tax dollars going to a school run by a cult! We we'd all be much better served by working to improve our local public schools which educate all students. These Charter schools take the problem -free students and leave those with learning disabilities, that cost more to educate, our public schools. This is an unfair burden that our taxpayers are being saddled with.
NE12Ukid October 03, 2012 at 01:43 PM
This was commented on, explored, and argued in great detail when this school was first mentioned here on Patch. BW made some gains in test scores this year, but did not meet AYP in all areas. Neither did this charter.
Melissa Nelson October 03, 2012 at 02:51 PM
My son is attending Young Scholars and I can solidly say thAt he is not in a cult. That is by far the silliest thing I have ever heard. The have a standard public school curriculum with the addition of 2 foreign languages. As college educated adults, I believe my husband and I can tell the difference between a school and a cult. If one walks through the school, you meet college educated, mostly American, teachers. It's a shame that people make decisions by reading stories on the Internet instead of physically visiting places to fully understand how they work.
Robert Edward Healy, III October 03, 2012 at 02:55 PM
An example of a visit there: http://patch.com/A-nD3M.
NE12Ukid October 03, 2012 at 05:26 PM
A past article with comments: http://baldwin-whitehall.patch.com/articles/residents-concerned-over-charter-schools-mailings
Lindsay M. October 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
This school is located in my neighborhood of the township. The traffic in the morning and afternoon during drop off and pick up is unbelievable. The people who are picking up students park on Newport Drive. Between them, the school buses coming to the school for pick up and the buses coming through the township to get back and forth to schools/neighborhoods in the Keystone Oaks district, what a mess. Additionally, there is an incredible amount of extra traffic at these times with the people who use Baldwin Township as a detour to avoid Rt. 51, Rt. 88, West Liberty Ave. traffic congestion. One day I actually witnessed a cop trying to direct traffic but have yet to see one again. So, it is a mess. I have heard about the men who run this school and want to get more information about them and about this school. My sons attended the BW School District. I was so happy when the last one graduated a few years ago as I would never have to deal with the administration, teachers, principals ever again. That is sickening when you realize what we, as homeowners, are paying in school taxes. We should be turning out better students in the district. I, for one, do not want this school to expand. The traffic congestion is too much right now. Thank you.
Lindsay M. October 03, 2012 at 05:55 PM
With all due respect, did you attend public schools in this area? If so, which one. Did you graduate?
NE12Ukid October 03, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Sounds like this school needs to come up with a better drop off/pick up system so that residents don't have to deal with these parents parking and waiting off the school property. I hope you can bring this up to your Planning commission as they address the other concerns.
Rachel Majcher October 04, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Our daughter is in First Grade and our son will start kindergarten at Young Scholars next year. We absolutely love the school, it's challenging curriculum and very family oriented environment. I have volunteered at the school for many events, have been on the PTO and now am employed by the school part time. Our kids are not lost in the abyss as they would be in a regular public school, which we thought was our only option when our daughter was in preschool. Yes, the parking can be improved, but there is definately space on the property to improve it. I have personally seen other schools, especially Myrtle elementary where the parents are parked up and down the streets, many blocking driveways. That is why they are called "neighborhood schools".....because they are located in neighborhoods, where people live....we all deal with inconveniences with traffic, but if it provides a quality education, then it is worth it. Also, my theory on why we didn't make the AYP is because it was the first year of the school and the teachers have to fix all the issues that the other schools left these kids with. Everyone needs to open their minds and let these kids learn....Btw, not all of the kids at the school are "perfect"....there are kids of all abilities and a great staff to help them all be the best that they can.
MarkMunoz October 04, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Good for you Deanna because the Gulen operated schools are known for treating special needs students like second class citizens. In Texas their Harmony Science Academies mismanaged over $187,000 in federal money intended for special needs (it went to regular payroll) Their school in Minnesota just closed down the speical needs program and told 40 familes to take a hike. Gulenists are known for slamming online boards, voting and market like crazy. They are liars and it is catching up with them. http://www.gulencharterschools.weebly.com
Rachel Majcher October 04, 2012 at 02:25 AM
btw, thank you mr. healy for posting the video and pics from the school. they learn alot about the world around them and how to become productive citizens.
Robert Edward Healy, III October 04, 2012 at 02:42 AM
My pleasure.
cc October 04, 2012 at 05:22 AM
There are traffic jams at the High School every day if you drop your child off and pick them up after school. Same traffic jams at the Middle School, McAnnulty and Whitehall Elementary every day. There isn't much parking at McAnnulty and Whitehall Schools either when they have open house and they shuttle people from parking lots to the school. Same can be done with this school is to use shuttle buses to park people elsewhere and drop them off at the school
Timm Hickey October 04, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I think your education has been questioned because of your entry above. Your grammar is poor and your spelling just as bad. I am guessing that is why the other person questioned if you went to school and if you finished. You might want to proof read your entry before hitting the submit button, just to make it readable to others.
Lynnette G October 08, 2012 at 02:16 PM
My family moved to Pittsburgh 2 years ago from Florida and placed our children in a non Charter Public School. The level of education my children received was alarming. Not one to stand by and complain with no action, I volunteered my time to help make the school better to no avail. I was laid off of work and decided that was a blessing in disguise as I could now home school my children vs. sending them back to said school. Soon after I ran into the Admin Asst from Young Scholars, applied, and was able to get my students enrolled. There is a world of difference in the level of education, the care of the staff and the quality of learning on a whole. The whole cult thing startles me. I spend countless hours at the school and have never witnessed it. Maybe I should go when Paula Lim goes?


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